Interview: Max Stafford-Clark on the revival of This May Hurt a Bit

The witty drama, written by Stella Feehily, aims to provoke a political discussion about the NHS

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Interview: Max Stafford-Clark on the revival of This May Hurt a Bit

Photo: John Haynes

Max Stafford-Clark was the Traverse’s artistic director in its early years, before going on to work with some of the most exciting playwrights of the past three decades. He’s about to bring his latest production, This May Hurt a Bit, back to Edinburgh.

How did This May Hurt a Bit begin life?
It emerged from a prolonged period of workshops in 2008, but Stella [Feehily] spent three years writing the play, so it veered away from the research we had done. A lot of the time was spent talking to doctors, nurses, health politics academics and Ken Clarke, twice minister of health. We did two periods of workshops, both at the National Theatre studio, in 2008 and 2012. With the latter, we had a script to work on.

The press release suggests that the inspiration came from your experiences. Is that right?
I think that’s an exaggeration, but I did have a six-month period when I was in a local hospital, and then a national hospital for neurological disorders. That was certainly a first-hand experience of the NHS!

Is theatre a good place for political discussion?
Theatre’s engagement with social and political issues is hugely empowering: the issues debated in newspapers can be taken on by theatre.

Why do you think theatre is a good place for this?
I think it provokes a discussion between participants and observers. The debate is carried forward in the theatre, and I am lucky to have a career where that is the case.

Do you feel an affinity with other contemporary theatre-makers?
I think theatre changes all the time. Verbatim theatre was the last pulse forward and we’re waiting for another one.

Do you know what it will be?
No, no! My job is to present the present, not predict the future!

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 8–Sat 12 Apr.

This May Hurt A Bit

  • Directed by: Max Stafford-Clark
  • Written by: Stella Feehily

Stella Feehily's witty drama explores one family's journey through the system of the NHS and ponders the prognosis of the experience. Directed by Max Stafford-Clark.

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