‘This Is Going To Hurt’: the West End reopens with this hilarious and passionate NHS monologue

Comedy, Musical
Adam Kay, This Is Going To Hurt, 2020
Photo by Adam Kay

Time Out says

Adam Kay’s hilarious and impassioned NHS monologue reopens the West End

The West End is back! And not just grimly ‘technically back’. It feels like it’s back too. I caught up with its reopening show, doctor-turned-comic Adam Kay’s NHS monologue ‘This Is Going To Hurt’ – adapted from his hit book of the same name – a week after its opening night. And the Apollo Theatre was heaving and happy. Or at least as heaving and happy as is permitted in the social distancing era. But frankly I’ve been to enough tenth-full matinees to know what real social distancing looks like. This was just like… a nice night out.

On a prosaic level, the show – which was due to come to London earlier in the year but didn’t, because of The Obvious – is a technically simple affair, partly staged to road test safety measures at the Apollo ahead of the ambitious return of the musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ next month.

But it’s also the perfect piece to reopen with. It’s mostly funny and light, with Kay reading out lurid extracts from the journal he kept as a junior doctor, interspersed with some acerbic audience chat and daft medical-themed reworking of pop songs. It is fun, actual fun, a little gross-out in places – the entry about some poor bloke who smeared his penis down a lampost is, frankly, horrifying – but always enjoyable.

That’s left to the last 15 minutes or so. ‘This Is Going To Hurt’ finally lives up to its name as Kay details the traumatic incident – and his inability to move on from it – that led to him leaving the NHS. It’s a painful moment, and he still seems visibly upset as he reads the last entry he ever made in what was supposed to be a journal of funny observations.

But what really gives ‘This Is Going To Hurt’ its lift is how Kay powers beyond the original, pre-Covid ending and moves on to an impassioned, unsentimental vindication of NHS staff and their refusal to be overwhelmed by the epidemic or the government mishandling of it. It’s ragged and raw and heartfelt, a world away from trite clapping or rainbows or talk of heroes. As we enter a dark winter, Kay’s daft gags are the spoonful of sugar needed to help his bitter medicine go down we need.


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