Where It Hurts review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘authentic voices on mental health issues’

The Stage / Thom Dibdin

At a fringe where the issues surrounding mental health form a major theme, Where It Hurts, from Edinburgh’s Grassmarket Projects, not only nails the zeitgeist, but reveals it using authentic voices as it takes verbatim theatre to its logical conclusion.

Director and deviser Jeremy Weller brings together 15 people who have experience of the NHS and its mental health services. Instead of interviewing them to weave their testimonies into a narrative for professional performers, he asks them to voice their own stories in drama workshops. The narrative is then woven from these stories – edited, spliced together and presented by the people themselves.

If there is sometimes a rawness to the performers’ stagecraft, there is no lacking in feeling or depth to the characters depicted in Weller and Mark Traynor’s slick technical presentation. And of course, these are characters – portrayals of the performers at a time when their personal crises brought them into contact with the NHS.

Held together by an over-arching recollection of life in the health service from Steven, a nurse who comes from a family of NHS staff, Where It Hurts shows, with commendable lack of squeamishness, the places where no one wants to go, but many do. And in so doing, it also celebrates the NHS itself.