Super High Resolution review – compelling exploration of a crumbling NHS

Soho theatre, London
Directed by Blanche McIntyre, Nathan Ellis’s drama serves as a reminder of what cuts are doing to our health service but it tells more than it shows

The bone-deep exhaustion is palpable. The impact of being constantly relied upon is laid bare in Nathan Ellis’s strong but predictable NHS drama, where Anna (Jasmine Blackborow), a drained junior doctor, spends her too-long days apologising for the structure that is disintegrating around her. She is a good doctor who cannot cope any more. But how can anyone cope, Super High Resolution asks, when the system is this broken?

Blackborow is compelling as Anna: kind, resilient and yet gradually becoming numb. Her skill is like a sunbeam when she deals with a suicidal patient, played beautifully by Hayley Carmichael. But away from work and with nothing left to give, Anna crumbles. She wears scrubs throughout, even when she’s having sex, as if beneath what she offers to her job, there is nothing that remains of her.

This is a step away from the writer’s more experimental shows: the intense, apocalyptic No One Is Coming to Save You and the interactive, actor-absent work.txt. The dialogue here is sharp and sarcastic, but it tells a little more than it shows. The writing is strongest in the sections where we see the effects of mounting pressures, rather than when we just hear about them in conversation. Ellis captures it most effectively with Anna’s manipulative consultant (Catherine Cusack), entirely devoid of energy and empathy, ignoring every blazing sign of Anna’s burnout.

Jasmine Blackborow and LJ Johnson in Super High Resolution.
Mounting pressures … Jasmine Blackborow and LJ Johnson in Super High Resolution. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Blanche McIntyre’s staging is joltingly still, the primary action being the swish of hospital curtains which surround the set. As a result, the cast of six spend a lot of time hovering awkwardly in hospital corners, backlit by Andrew D Edwards’ and Prema Mehta’s neon-stripped set.

It can’t be easy to follow the success of Adam Kay’s televised book, This Is Going to Hurt, which tackles similar topics so powerfully. Both serve as keen reminders of what heartless cuts are doing to our desperately needed health service and the people who hold it up. Super High Resolution may not have quite the same scale of impact, but it does uniquely pinpoint the all-consuming need to just have someone care for you when you can no longer care for yourself, let alone the line of patients who have been waiting hours to see you.


Kate Wyver

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The week in theatre: Hymn; Typical review – first-rate and perfectly balanced
Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani work as one in Lolita Chakrabarti’s brilliantly realised study of male friendship

Susannah Clapp

28, Feb, 2021 @10:30 AM

Article image
The Special Relationship review – compelling tales in Trump cabaret
Six almost-Americans narrate stories of cruelties inflicted when being expelled from the US

Brian Logan

13, Mar, 2020 @1:45 PM

Article image
Groomed review – horrifyingly honest study of abuser and abused
Patrick Sandford makes an astonishing dramatisation of childhood abuse and its consequences over a lifetime in this eloquent film

Arifa Akbar

27, May, 2020 @6:00 PM

Article image
Herding Cats review – the super-slick return of a play that still stings
An impressive cast – including Greg Germann via video link – deliver a revival of Lucinda Coxon’s jittery examination of intimacy and exploitation

Chris Wiegand

21, May, 2021 @12:26 PM

Article image
The One review – vicious relationship drama makes for uncomfortable viewing
Tuppence Middleton and John Hopkins star in Vicky Jones’s play about the sadistic games of a bored couple

Kate Wyver

11, Jul, 2018 @10:59 PM

Article image
Women in Power review – rude, raucous reboot of radical Greek comedy
Aristophanes’ neglected classic The Assemblywomen, which proposes economic and sexual communism – is given an uneven musical update

Michael Billington

13, Sep, 2018 @10:00 PM

Article image
Ravenscourt review – NHS drama zings with grim humour
Georgina Burns’ debut play about an overburdened counselling unit presents perceptive insights and no easy answers

Arifa Akbar

04, Oct, 2022 @11:32 AM

Article image
The Winter’s Tale review – Blanche McIntyre celebrates the play's problems
A superb cast deliver striking performances in a production that is knowingly dissonant, from the costumes to the climax

Arifa Akbar

28, Jun, 2018 @3:51 PM

Article image
The Two Noble Kinsmen review – rarely staged bromance returns to the RSC
Blanche McIntyre’s RSC debut underscores the erotic strangeness of Shakespeare’s jointly authored final play – but doesn’t solve all its problems

Michael Billington

25, Aug, 2016 @12:02 PM

Article image
After the Cuts review – DIY healthcare in a post-NHS era
Gary McNair’s darkly humorous drama asks how far we’d go to save the person we love

Kate Wyver

09, Aug, 2018 @5:00 AM