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.
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.
At Soho theatre, London, until 3 December.