Written and directed by Sam Freeman
Unity Theatre, Hope Place
30th May 2012

Reviewed by Jennifer Keegan

Floating is a one-woman show that highlights the plight of an NHS nurse, played wonderfully by Susannah Freeman. She talks to the audience about dealing with death and loss every day, she explains how there are many different faces to grief, how each person copes with losing a loved one in a different way, but that as a nurse she can see the similarities. She talks about how it’s surprising that she finds sometimes an 80-year-old woman deals with it better and appears stronger than a young man. She kindly and compassionately states that she understands the anger directed at her in those upsetting situations and how she tries not to take it personally. She talks about floating; both the patients and the nurses in an endless, timeless hospital were the outside world doesn’t exist.

The brightening and lowering of the lights to depict changes in the mood was beautifully executed as she explained that the constant care has to affect them, after all, nurses are only human. As she talked about her patients being in pain and clutching at her hand, the anguish is etched on her face. She swiftly moves away from that with jokes about her ability to sum up her day by the number of chocolate wrappers in her handbag. She cleverly shows the difference in patients and how easily tempers can be frayed and how although she tries not to take her work home, it inevitably impacts her life outside of the hospital.

She touches on the comparisons between our NHS system and the health insurance schemes in America, and this is where I think the play excelled, for all its faults, the NHS is a massively undervalued system, and in a matter of sentences she sums up wonderfully how lucky we are that we have free healthcare.

This was Sam Freeman’s first serious play, as well as both his and Susannah’s first one-woman play. His intention to show how the worst of humanity is often highlighted and broadcast for all to see whilst the quiet, humble and beautiful moments within humanity are often ignored was strikingly illustrated. Towards the end, Freeman manages to show how much one person matters. How a person might die alone, if not for a nurse willing to hold their hand. Everyone deserves more than to die alone and in the end all that matters are people and the connections you make with them. Susannah laughs at the end by telling us so many people ask in disgust how she can possibly be a nurse. She answers by asking them how they can possibly do anything else.

Freeman’s success is in his understated simplicity, a complex character and a glimpse into a familiar subject from a different angle. Overall a moving, beautiful, thought provoking play which sparked nothing but conversation the whole way home.

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