Paul T Davies reviews Gary McNair’s play After The Cuts now playing at Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe.
First staged in 2015, Gary McNair’s play is set in the near future after the NHS has been privatised. Discussions about how we cannot afford the NHS are louder now, and the far right has a stronger media presence. As with other plays on the subject at this year’s Fringe, it’s the devastating effect on ordinary people that fires the play.
Jim and Aggie have been married for a long time, and are just about getting by. But when she becomes ill, their insurance won’t cover her, and desperate measures are taken. Pauline Knowles is excellent as Aggie, furious with the system, trying to find mindfulness and hoping yoga will help. Equally excellent is George Docherty as Jim, practical, a fixer of things, and they perfectly capture the bickering of a long established couple. Yet they also convey a sense of impending distress, at facing the fact that they cannot afford her cancer treatment in the hospital they were born in for free.
The comedy takes a very dark and surreal turn, but it works because enough of the script is rooted in a reality that is happening now. Beth Morton’s assured direction plays everything as fact, all the events depicted could happen once fear of being unable to pay for the doctor returns. A sobering comedy that should make us even more determined to fight for the NHS. Highly recommended.