By Rachel Cronin
Glasgow-based actor, singer/songwriter and playwright Patricia Panther’s The Body Electrician is a scarily believable dystopia. Punchy and political, Panther’s play imagines a Scotland where the NHS has collapsed, and underground medical methods may be the only answer. The performance was hosted by Òran Mór’s ‘A Play, a Pie and a Pint’ event- a perfect way to soak up some time on a summer afternoon.
Two savvy scientists, Professor Sartorious (Cara Kelly) and Iris (played by Patricia Panther herself) have invented a machine that combines high-tech futuristic medicine and ancient Eastern healthcare practices. Directed by Joe Douglas, the dystopic doctors use their technology to help clients, while fighting for funding and trying to function in a society where medicine has been combined with capitalism.
Panther’s imagination knows no boundaries, and her complex ideas are difficult to squeeze into 50 a minute performance. However, they are made easier to grasp with Iris’ explanatory and enthusiastic monologues. Despite the audience having to learn the rules of this futuristic Scottish sci-fi society, it doesn’t feel as though time is wasted on setting the scene.
A high-tech play requires a high-tech set, which Gemma Patchett and Jonny Scott manage to deliver, alongside sound by Andy Cowan, lighting by Chris Reilly and graphics by Fiona Stewart. The laboratory is complete with ‘meridian machine’, plasma ball, and something that resembles Dr Brown’s flux capacitor of Back to the Future.
Despite a few stumbles and stutters here and there, The Body Electrician is a thought-provoking comment on a post-COVID United Kingdom where the future of the NHS hangs in the balance.