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Get Well Soon review at Birch Community Centre, Manchester – ‘engaging and informative’

The cast of Mikron Theatre's Get Well Soon. Photo: Peter Boyd

The micro-budgeted but innovative Mikron theatre company’s stock in trade is an ability to pop up in any sort of small venue – from church halls to shops and allotments – to perform its own original plays with a core cast of four playing multiple parts and instruments with minimal set-up and next-to-no lighting.

It’s a formula that they’ve been perfecting since their inception in 1973 and, judging by the response from the crowd in Rusholme’s 100-year-old Birch Community Centre, it’s in rude health. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for the subject of their latest play, which celebrates 70 years of the NHS in unashamedly partisan fashion.

Its aims are clear, as a story unfolds about a profit-obsessed hospital manager seeing the error of his ways after breaking his ankle and witnessing his own ailing – also 70-year-old – father buffeted around the care system.

It’s not subtle and the way it is pitched, with Horrible Histories-aping sketches marking key moments in the institution’s history and pastiche songs peppering the action, gives it the unfortunate appearance of a children’s show or after schools special.

But director Marianne McNamara keeps things pacy, while the cast portray their sometimes thinly constructed characters with warmth and humanity. Few people would disagree with the assertion that the NHS needs protecting from the money men, so there’s an element of preaching to the converted, while dissenting voices will feel hectored. However, closing song Ship of Hope, performed with passion by Daisy Ann Fletcher, would stir the senses whichever side of the ideological divide you sit on.

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Verdict
Engaging and informative celebration of an august institution blunted by some on-the-nose polemics
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