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BWW Review: TIGER COUNTRY, Hampstead Theatre At Home

BWW Review: TIGER COUNTRY, Hampstead Theatre At Home

BWW Review: TIGER COUNTRY, Hampstead Theatre At Home The overworked and underfunded NHS is on our minds more than ever before. As part of its free digital streaming series in partnership with The Guardian, Hampstead Theatre has made available Nina Raine's stirring medical drama Tiger Country on its website. It is available to stream until Sunday 26 April.

Written and directed by Raine, Tiger Country gives the viewer a glimpse into daily life in an NHS hospital in London during a hectic December. We follow several characters, from consultants to nurses, working to treat the nation. With a blend of humour and high drama, the piece shows the reality of working in a health service under strain.

The work first premiered in 2011 and was later rewritten and revived in 2014, both at Hampstead Theatre. Its final performance in 2015 was filmed and streamed on the Telegraph website and this is the version that is now available on the theatre's website.

Ruth Everett gives an emotive performance as eager junior doctor, Emily, and portrays the struggle to balance saving every life with staying late and maintaining her relationship with colleague James (Luke Thompson). Thompsons chemistry with Everett displays the highs and lows of a same-sector romance.

Jenny Galloway steals some scenes as Olga the nurse and Gillian, a patient who is recovering her ability to speak. Maxwell Hutcheon gives a gently charming performance as her husband, other patients and an anaesthetist.

Indira Varma is suitably fiery and frustrated as Vashti, a surgeon, pulled in many directions. The stand-offs with her mentee, senior house officer Mark (Nick Hendrix), provide some of the tenser moments in the piece.

A particularly poignant scene between John (Alastair Mackenzie) and Brian (Shaun Parkes) explores the grey area that occurs when the doctor becomes the patient. Parkes also provides one of the earlier lighter moments in the play by his music choice during surgery.

Choreography by Leon Baugh transforms the stage into a busy bustling hospital and video design by Dick Straker makes good use of medical images to immerse the audience in the clinical setting. Neil Austin's lighting design effectively mimics flickering fluorescent bar lights and use of NHS blue keeps the show on brand.

Lizzie Clachan's design mirrors the plain clinical backdrop of a hospital, giving a flexible space for moving between operating theatres and consultant offices with the use of a few additional set pieces, speedily wheeled into place by the cast.

Sound design by Fergus O'Hare blends tannoy announcements with sirens yet doesn't completely overpower the voices of the cast. The filming of this production gives a good balance of wider and close up shots to capture the collective chaos and individual monologues.

The series of overlapping stories works well, leaving the audience on a particularly sombre cliff-hanger at the end of Act I. While the tone becomes more serious as the play progresses, it highlights the cumulative effect of the pressure the staff are under - without any mention of a pandemic.

While it doesn't address the wider political issues of the day, this helps the piece to remain relatively timeless but relevant. It portrays events seen in hospitals up and down the country without shoehorning references to transient political figures.

We don't need reminding that those who work in our hospitals are heroes, particularly at the moment. Tiger Country feels as timely as its premiere in 2011. It should make you applaud all the more enthusiastically for the NHS on Thursday evening.

Tiger Country available to stream until 10 pm, Sunday 26 April

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