Alan Bennett’s next play will focus on an NHS hospital threatened with closure thanks to government cuts.
Allelujah! will open at the Bridge Theatre in London this July. Its setting is The Beth, “an old-fashioned cradle-to-grave hospital serving a town on the edge of the Pennines” now facing the chop.
It will be Mr. Bennett’s tenth collaboration with former National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner.
Allelujah! has been described as “as sharp as The History Boys and as funny as The Lady In The Van”–both of which were also directed by Mr. Hytner.
Mr. Bennett has been a vociferous critic of private involvement in the NHS. In 2005, the playwright revealed he had been treated for cancer years earlier. Though he had also used private hospitals, he said, “that with the NHS, there are more jokes.”
Writing in the London Review Of Books in 2014, he described Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as “hapless” and “simpering” in outsourcing NHS blood transfusions.
In the same paper in 2010, he praised the health service offered “speed, privacy, and one goes at one’s own convenience–all of these regularly advertised as the benefits of private medicine.”
A civil service
Allelujah! will not be Mr. Bennett’s first script to champion the cause of free healthcare.
In his 1971 play Getting On, one character makes a rousing speech in celebration of the NHS, saying its creation “laid the cornerstone of a civilized life.”
In the new play, a documentary crew “eager to capture its fight for survival” is seen following “the daily struggle to find beds” on the hospital’s Dusty Springfield Geriatric Ward, producers said.
Some light and heartwarming relief is provided by the hospital’s old people’s choir.
Casting has yet to be announced.
This article originally appeared in Inews on February 23, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.