In The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story, Christie Watson talks about a large pot of decaffeinated coffee kept in her hospital office for years. It has never been opened. Her memoir captures the caffeine rush of a profession that, she writes, “requires fluidity, being able to adapt and pushing energy in the direction patients and colleagues need you.”
The dynamism of his writing and the adrenalized hospital environment lend themselves to physical theater. Capricious productionsThe book’s staging, adapted and directed by Sasha Milavic Davies and James Yeatman, builds a choreography from daily practices: washing hands, making beds, rushing from patient to patient. You feel the muscle memory and the tacit understanding between the nurses working side by side. “They have a sense of things,” we are told – even when we feel the pain before it happens.
Unlike Nina Raine’s more character-driven A&E drama, Tiger Country, The Language of Kindness features impressionistic sketches, enhanced by the sound designer. Gareth Frydisturbing beeps and purrs. If these noises manage to feel both otherworldly and authentic to hospital life, so too. Jess bernberglighting design. Zoe HurwitzThe whole evokes this mixture of emptiness and conviviality specific to hospitals, as well as the greyness and bursts of cheerful colors. Glowing helium balloons form a kind of facility that could be better integrated into production. Some of the more fantastic movement sequences seem uneven, such as a long episode combining a patient’s tortured dance solo with a calypso designed to comfort her, performed by three nurses wearing rubber glove skirts.
Watson’s experiences are shared by multiple performers, with special attention to procedures, emotions, and senses – those weird memories that linger from medical experiences, like Watson’s memory of being fed on orange yogurt. by a nurse at the age of eight. It creates immediacy, but you miss a distinct characterization of Watson and one of his colleagues and a broader perspective of hierarchies, bureaucracies, and politics in the healthcare system. Watson’s memoir was published in 2018, after her retirement, but she returned to nursing during the pandemic. The place of the NHS in our national life during the Covid crisis hovers over the show but is not specifically explored.
Performed well by a six-person ensemble, with Rina Fatania particularly good at comedic moments, the show vividly juxtaposes the quick and caring efficiency of a nurse with the private bustle. In the opening scenes, a nurse calmly helps a woman during labor while admitting to us that she is shocked by the blood, grime and screams as she gives birth to her first baby. In the powerful closing, we hear about the emotional toll of the job; a nurse says she was offered advice but never would have had time to follow it. You remain in awe of our army of caregivers and painfully aware that they themselves deserve more care.