ROUNDS, New Wimbledon Studio - Review

Resuscitate Theatre's contribution to the Illuminate Festival in London couldn't be more timely. A response to the silence from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt regarding the excessive hours that junior doctors are expected to work, Rounds is a devised show that depicts the 'warts and all' existence of being a junior doctor. With direct imput and feedback from those in the profession and direction from Anna Marshall, Rounds tackles in a succinct fashion the day-to-day reality of being on a the front line of the NHS. The actors who have taken part all have Lecoq training or similar backgrounds, which manifests itself in the elegant, movement-oriented elements of the show.

One of the important things that the show conveys is the psychological state of the junior doctors. Unlike the rest of us, if they're having a really bad day, it's more likely to be because someone has died, rather than a clash of personalities or obstinate bureaucracy (though of course this has in part precipitated the recent industrial action). Coping with a system that doesn't value its staff yet demands maximum accountability and being on call seven days a week, it's small wonder that doubts in one's abilities occurs as exemplified by the character of Dr Lucy Wright (Penny Rodie).

Characters like Dr Tom Jenkins (Adam Deane) are more complicated than they at first appear. For Jenkins, being a doctor isn't a vocation – a true calling,  but something he think's he's good at and should get paid for. When brought before a disciplinary hearing for negligence, he's able to leave with just a slap on the wrist. In contrast, Wright – arguably the most conscientious of all the doctors in the play – is moved elsewhere, her reputation and state of mind rated as 'questionable'. This leaves us with a number of questions. Was Jenkins absolved simply because as he was 'confident' and able to wing it? Or is it his connections with 'public schools' that smoothed things over? Or was it the fact that Wright was judges more severely... because she's a woman? None of these speculations inspire confidence in the powers-that-be that who are suppose to be looking out for the welfare of patients and staff alike.

Then there are the experience of non-British nationals working for the NHS who also 'don't have right connections' (medically or socially) such as the Italian Dr Poretti (Davide Fox) who ends up bearing the brunt of bigoted patients and only able to get thing off his chest by Skyping his family. Elsewhere there are young doctors who find solace in 'after hours' drinking a great help...

These however are only a fraction of the things covered in Rounds, and even though there are lot of negative experiences for the doctors, the one thing that's unequivocal in the show is their compassion and empathy for people which keeps them going – as long as they have support from without and within...

A show like this has the capacity to constantly evolve and even with latest developments regarding contracts with the British Medical Association and Jeremy Hunt, the semantics of their rewording does not guarantee a done deal. I suspect we will always need a play such as Rounds, especially now that staffing levels of junior doctors have reached an all-time critical low.

© Michael Davis 2016

Rounds ran at the New Wimbledon Studio on 18th and 19th May 2016 as part of the Illuminate Festival.

CAST: Roxanne Browne - Dr Felicity Clarke, Penny Rodie - Dr Lucy Wright, Tamara Saffir - Dr Grace Collins, Davide Fox - Dr Giobbe Poretti, Adam Deane - Dr Tom Jenkins, Iain Gibbons - Dr Dominic Cavednish.


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