sat 04/07/2020

Adam Kay, Bloomsbury Theatre review - festive tales from the NHS coalface | reviews, news & interviews

Adam Kay, Bloomsbury Theatre review - festive tales from the NHS coalface

Adam Kay, Bloomsbury Theatre review - festive tales from the NHS coalface

Medic-turned-comic reads from his waspish memoir

Adam Kay kept diaries when he was working as a hospital doctor in the NHS

Medic-turned-comic Adam Kay had been performing for some years before he wrote his 2016 Edinburgh Fringe show Fingering a Minor at the Piano. It had a personal addendum – about why he left medicine – and was a call to arms to save the NHS. It hit a nerve with audiences and in 2017 he published his waspish memoir, This Is Going to Hurt, which has been on bestseller lists ever since.

Now he has some festive fare with Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas, the tour supporting his second book of the same title, in which he reads entries from the diaries he wrote during the six consecutive Christmases he worked in a hospital. He was, he says drily, “Jewish-ish enough” to be rostered for the Christian festival, but not Jewish enough to get away early each Friday.

Long-time fans will be pleased to know it's more of Kay's world-weary diary entries that chart patients he treated and those who work at the NHS coalface, and musical ditties full of clever word play and rhymes, sung to Christmas pop tunes and carols.

There are several tales of the sort we have all come for – about the unfailing ability of the British public to overdo the Christmas spirit and do daft things, especially of a sexual nature. Many of his Christmas shifts, it would seem, were taken up helping “the elderly, who’ve gone full Jenga on the ice”, or patients who “egged on by too much eggnog, lose objects in various orifices”.

Men and women are equally stupid (or adventurous, depending on your point of view) but the tale about a man into sado-masochism who ends up “with a cock like a colander” after one thrill too many may make you ponder. 

Kay also includes the set piece his audiences always expect, a call-and-response set to Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah”, where they have to guess the four-syllable chorus response from the previous verse.

That's the only interaction Kay has with the audience and the show, while enjoyable, feels underpowered and too brief at 70 minutes (although there is a book-signing after each date). But Kay's stories are always worth hearing, and his encomium about the half million people in the NHS who will work over Christmas to keep us safe even more so.

There are several tales about the unfailing ability of the British public to overdo the Christmas spirit

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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