‘Hospital Beds – how to treat an Iceberg’ is a storyline superbly constructed by Murdoch student, Scott McArdle. Presented by Second Chance Theatre, this crowning glory to the end of a most successful year, premiered at Nexus Theatre on Thursday 19th, Friday 20th, and Saturday 21st of December at 7.00 pm, with a matinee on the Saturday.
All food, beverage and programme proceeds were donated to ‘This Star Won’t Go Out’, in support of families and children affected by cancer.
The large Nexus stage depicted the entrance hall to a large, busy hospital. The floor had on it, a big blue iris decoration. The set design, by Nicola Rivers, comprised a staircase at the rear, with a set of three symbolised windows represented by green LED strip lights in silicone tubes. There was a main hospital admissions desk at the side.
A central announcement calls for the workaholic and totally dedicated nurse, Harry Grayson (Aaron Vanderkley) to report to his ward. He cannot be found, and when Roland, the cleaner (Daley King) – and general source of gossip knowledge – doesn’t know where he is, then things are bleak. Thanks to gruelling double shifts, along with some incompetence, exhausted Harry is often carried, covered and aided by his colleagues, including Jo (Nicola Brescianini) who thinks Harry can do no wrong. Then there is Dr Owen Patrick (Laughton McKenzie) and his love interest, Dr Helen Scully (Shannon Rogers), who are sick and tired of clearing up Harry’s disasters. They decide to have him look after a particularly awkward patient, Sylvia Taylor (Emily David). In fact Sylvia seems to have numerous medical problems, but are they real or invented? Sylvia gives everyone a difficult time, especially the male medics, who call her ‘The Iceberg’. For special reasons, known only to Harry, he finds her a wonderful patient and has some unusual treatment to help her ailments. Sylvia has a exceptional friend, another patient, Douglas (Stephen Platt) who understands her fears and loneliness, and regularly calls around to see her. Harry has another problem, his anxious sister, Anne (Harriet Fettis) who is having a relationship with Paul (Nic Doig), one that jealous Harry cannot condone.
For every writer there is a defining moment when the scripts turn from ‘very good amateur’ to ‘truly professional’, this was Scott’s moment. The rich, beautifully constructed script has several well thought-out threads, great characters that are real and palpable. The writing has plenty of pathos countered with just the right amount of humour.
The story is quite tragic on several levels, but with superb direction from Sam Knox it was not at all depressing, but exciting and intriguing. It was a wise and very daring move for the playwright to give the script to a different director, but award winning Sam has done the play proud. She has captured the tenderness of some acts and boldly countered them with strong drama. Flashbacks and dream sequences added to the magic and work very well.
The acting was gripping, fast moving and of an amazing quality. Each cast member blends perfectly with each other. From the angry Dr Patrick, to the slow Roland, the sexy Dr Scully to the confused sister Anne. However, it was the depth of acting from the two main characters that gripped the audience; Sylvia visibly trembling with her ailing body, and the subtle changes in Harry’s persona throughout the play. Powerful acting and directing.
There were numerous set changes but these were slickly carried out by the ‘hospital auxiliaries’ (stage crew led by Danica Rickard and Anna Weir) and appeared part of the hospital routine. A drama never really works unless the costumes and the props appear authentic; here Leah Toyne and Sophie Braham have sourced the genuine articles from hospitals. The lighting designed by Scott McArdle was well considered, picking out just the right area of action, in the ideal colour temperature and brightness for the mood. Smooth operation from Sarah Bond.
The music, scored by Drew Krapljanov, captured the atmosphere and pace perfectly. The composer was happy for his music to enhance rather than rule the scene, as often happens. Sensitive sound operation was by Aiden Willoughby. Laura Arcudi and Katherine O’Brien ensured that the programme and publicity were worthy of this first class play and production.
This is a play that I can recommend to small acting groups or organisations who want to make an impression in their local community theatre. Like ‘One flew over …’ I am sure that we will see this play doing the rounds for years to come. I am certain that this play will be the start of many exciting, quality productions from the Scott McArdle, Sam Knox partnership. Excellent on all levels.