REVIEW: The Performing Nurse

What does a nurse look like?

Lisa Smith, The Performing Nurse, uses truthful experience and honest, often dry humour to bridge a connection between the nursing profession and the creative arts. With deadpan delivery and bed pan projections, The Performing Nurse is charming, virile and a wonderful reminder that nurses are people just like us.

The Performing Nurse is a fusion of comedy, song, memoir and projection. With a stage hand dressed in surgical gear, a suburban home ocoupied by medical equipment, and Lisa’s quirky characters cracking jokes about the inner workings of hospitals, nursing looks like it’d be a hoot! But as Nurse “Bay Maree” reminds us, nursing has its pecking orders, its unfortunate beginnings, and its delicate nurse-patient ratios.

Many a running gag was accompanied by shared physical gags between performing nurse and audience alike. Touchy subjects and anal humour are considerably unavoidable with sickly stories and putrid projections! The show definitely lived up to its MA15+ warning with everything from pan rooms to antagonistic doctors, personalities that rub you the wrong way to patients who want to, and a fun-poking reference or two about a “kinky” nurse’s role within pornography. With stereotypes sliced open on the theatrical operating table the audience laughed their way through sexualisation, OCD, invisibility, and all of the roles and ranks a nurse experiences when walking down the hospital halls.

Within the show’s hour we meet nurses “Bay Maree” and Jan, a powerful and poetic Midwife, and presumably Lisa herself in a more glamorous stage persona. Whether each of these women are autobiographical, remnants of colleagues, or stereotypes throughout the profession’s history, we can all recognise the complexities of each of the women, their role and rank within the nursing profession, and most importantly, their crucial presence within hospitals and the healthcare system.

Unfortunately Jan’s presence over a “Skype” video call created a dip in an otherwise magnetic experience of live theatre. While documentary multimedia and provocative projections brought depth and balance to the diverse show and each of its segments, Jan’s long winded and generally dull “video call” caused seat squirming and wavering loyalty. To me, it was the digital platform that blocked the character’s potential for charisma and connection. I waited for the “Just A Nurse” Jan to charm her way out of her self confessed invisibility, or in the show’s case, forget-ability, but the video delivery seemed to create a connection barrier which was as frustrating as a bad internet signal and lagging Skype conversation.

Song and poetic language brought a more insightful juxtaposition to the otherwise comical performance. With powerful ambience and a ricocheting soundscape to accompany the diverse doco based projections, the show’s multimedia picked itself back up again and created a beautiful backdrop for the otherwise clinical set design.

The Performing Nurse may sneak in one or two inside jokes from the nursing world, but Lisa Smith brings a refreshing connection between two professions, two arts, and both of her professional lives.

This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the opening night performance on May 7.