Ever wondered what it’s like to ride in an ambulance? Well, now’s your chance.
Courtesy of the science-minded theatre troupe Curious Directive, five people are invited to experience a ‘red-eye’ shift with keen emergency trainee Lisa (played by a convincing Emily Lloyd-Saini) and a jaded Sylvia (heard solely through a matriarchal voice-over by a veracious Sarah Woodward).
As the vehicle sets off, headphones are provided — spewing out Sylvia’s frustrated complaints about the disintegrating infrastructure of the NHS — crying out that “it’s not what it was when she first started”. In between her expostulations, including an announcement she is transitioning to an ‘executive’ desk role effective tomorrow, incoming emergency calls circumvent stops at various locations, where the back doors fly open and Lisa juts out to save the day.
While Sylvia and Lisa’s interplay with those in need is heard via the listening devices, audience members are led outside to interact with someone that is presumably part of the emergency party — shedding light on one aspect of an emergency worker’s role.
For those not keen on sitting in a tight space without windows for a period of time, this is not the production for you. But the integration of projection screening and a monitor indicating what calls are coming in (and why) helps to re-focus attention from the cramped, often disheveled ambulance to the real matter at heart — keeping people alive.
Though you never actually get to see the emergency situations, which on one hand is disappointing, the show does provide a touching account of what paramedics endure, and the toilsome situations they are confronted with. And while the show doesn’t directly bash the government’s growing changes with the NHS, it certainly hints at the once proud paramedic crews to the now weary, embittered staffers.
Part of Curious Directive’s 2013 season titled Litmus/Culture, the show next heads to Edinburgh — a perfect slot for writers Jack Lowe (who also directs) and Russell Woodhead’s impactful production. Increasing the ‘immersion’ element would engage (and educate) viewers even more, but regardless, it leaves you with a churn in your stomach as sirens scream past on your way home.
The Kindness of Strangers is on at Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1, and runs until 16 July. The production lasts one hour, with six shows a day (11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm and 9pm). Tickets are £20/£18 concessions. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.