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  • Henry Longstaff

This Is Normal - Old Red Lion

The aftershocks of the pandemic linger

This is normal


Undoubtedly the the covid years changed the way we experienced the world around us. Forced inside, existing in restrictive Zoom calls and masking up before heading to the shops, the effects sure to be studied for decades to come. It is this area that Stuart Warwick’s latest play immerses itself in. Through the eyes of a hospital porter, we relive the conclusion of the pandemic, his humanity damaged during reentry.

Warwick presents us with a key worker, just like the ones that millions clapped for every Thursday evening at the height of the pandemic. The nameless porter has had his empathy gradually drained from him by an underfunded NHS and the sanitised environment he inhabits. He speaks without filter, his thoughts tumbling forth with repeated tangents testing the strength of the narrative. The hour-long piece would benefit from a stronger core plot to aid the structure - Warwick's writing though brutally honest and witty, risks losing focus as the anecdotes begin to stack on top of each other.

After a Grindr related incident (equally not as bad and far worse than you’d expect), the porter finds himself in need of the hospital where he spends his life transporting patients, charts and body parts along corridors. A reconciliation occurs, a possibility to reignite the understanding of the miracle that the NHS is when operating at its best. Serving as both a warning of the state of the health service but equally as a celebration of the individuals who devote their lives to the care of patients at all levels of the operation, this is an engrossing play that drips with candid, dry humour to see us through to the end.

Warwick’s delivery is calm and relaxed as if chatting with a close friend over a beer. His persona far from likeable as he belittles those around him, his outlook casually damning and bitter. But over the hour we steadily grow to understand his perspective, the conditions and expectations placed on him able to crush the spirit of the strongest of individuals. Again though, the performance is somewhat hampered by the script, requiring a narrative spark to elevate the piece beyond its present positioning. There is a vast emotional world to explore here with the emotional climaxes currently underwhelming there is no doubt that this piece has scope to focus and grow further to have the desired impact.

A compelling piece about the beating heart of the NHS and the residual damage from a few years most would choose to forget. I look forward to seeing it developed in the future.

Running till 23rd September - Tickets

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