Allelujah! – something to celebrate!Posted on 8th January 2019
The arrival of a new play by Alan Bennett is always something to celebrate, not least as they are increasingly rare. His latest, set in a rundown NHS hospital, is his first in six years, and is packed with his signature tropes.
The mix of sadness, hope and downright absurdity to be found in our ailing but noble health service proves to be fertile source material for Bennett’s mordant wit and quiet outrage, and Allelujah! is full to bursting with his passionate indignation at an institution being nibbled away at by short term cost-cutting and mendacious sophistry. Deborah Findlay is excellent in a central performance around which a strong ensemble cast turns, particularly some terrific third age actors that include Simon Williams, Julia Foster and Gwen Taylor.
With a huge cast and several plot strands, it sometimes feels Bennett is taking on too much here, but the play is never less than engaging. It certainly takes a few unexpected twists and turns, and despite some delightful musical interludes, is no cosy paean to an idealised bygone era. Instead, we are served up a frequently bitter pill of what happens when tired people try their best in tired institutions – it’s a play about tough love and unpalatable medicine, and is ultimately all the more nourishing as a result.
By David Vass