Reviewed at Nexus Arts on 16 March 2019
Presented by A Cardiac Event
Reviewed 16th February, 2019
I saw an earlier show by Zuleika Khan (Triage!) two Fringe Festivals ago. This new cabaret is somewhat darker, looser in structure, and lacks the professional polish of its predecessor. There’s much comedy, witty song rewrites, costumes, zany characters, and the odd medical prop, all presented with considerable energy by this solo performer.
Whilst entertaining us, registered nurse Khan presents an intelligently argued sociocultural message about valuing health services and health workers in this country. The net effect is still engaging, both for health care professionals and others, but not quite tidy enough.
Khan sings well, somewhat better in her lower register; high range notes sag now and again. She sings to backing tracks except when she accompanies herself for one song on the piano. Because her keyboard skills are minimal, the quality of her original song suffers. A jolly rewrite of 60’s shoop-shoop song It’s In His Kiss, extolling the usefulness of urine as a diagnostic, hits the target well. Some of her lyric rewrites are poorly rhymed and scanned; comedy happens when everything is meticulously accurate – and ‘wrong’ at the same time.
She re-uses her opening song from Triage!, which still works well. And yes, folks! Speculums are back. This time two are pressed into service as substitute castanets in a vigorous Madonna “I’m going bananas” segment. Penile health is discussed in clear and clinical fashion. Nursing runs in Khan’s family and she uses uniforms of her grandmother’s and her mother’s day to present two historic nurse characters. Since her father was a doctor, she also frequently questions the culture, both within and outside the health care system, of “doctor as god” and “nurse as simple-minded servant”. Her assertions around nurses’ breadth of practical knowledge met with applause from the good percentage of nurses in the audience. Though intelligent and informative, Khan’s chats often became too discursive; she needs to sharpen her script.
The show loses momentum each time Khan leaves stage for a costume change. For both the quality of the music and the general maintenance of energy throughout the show, I missed a live accompanist at the piano. Directors spot theatrical black holes and fix them. I have seen no reference to a director on any of the promotional material. This cabaret needs one now. Because the material is timely and very worthwhile and its component parts are entertaining, this cabaret and its skilled writer/presenter deserve a wider audience.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson