Originally created for Duckie's 2009 Gay Shame club night at the Brixton Academy, Nurse Knows Best was devised in response to troublesome ideas surrounding purity, cleansing, care and filth. These were areas that emerged as interesting to Sheila when she began to explore Duckie's 2009 theme of Femininity. The piece was then re-worked for BAC's One-on-One Festival in June 2010, and, whilst retaining some aspects of the Duckie version (i.e. its cheeky interactive nature), the piece has now emerged as a much gentler, restorative and contemplative work. In addition to BAC it has been seen at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield, Nova Festival in Pulborough as part of BAC's Take Out Season 2012 and FLINT Festival in Corsham with just one bed and one nurse. Most recently it was shown at Wellcome Collection as part of The Sick of The Fringe's 2017 weekend programme of work with three beds and three nurses, with a focus on self-care.
What happens in the work?
Each audience member is allocated a bed. They are then given a form and asked to self diagnose themselves according to a “treatment” that they would like to receive. This is then administered by a nurse/performer for a specific amount of time. Treatments range from receiving some TLC, to undergoing a Brainwash to receiving a 'faux' bedbath etc. This section of the work is interactive and responsive to the audience member. Towards the end of the piece the pace shifts and there is a short section in which patients become audience, eventually all joining together, hands held - chorus-like - in a collective moment of pause. Audience members are then sent out into the night with a small reminder of their time spent together.
The duration of the work is 15 minutes and can be performed back to back for a few hours. The number of beds and nurses is negotiable (ie at Duckie there were 6 beds and 6 nurses whereas at BAC there were 4 beds and 2 nurses).
In addition to Sheila, the nursing team has so far included:
Nurse Ellie Stamp, Nurse Dora Jejey, Nurse Lizzie Sells, Nurse Katherina Radeva, Nurse Jiva Parthipan, Nurse Chloe Dechery, Nurse Natasha Davis, Nurse Victoria Firth, Nurse Hannah Crosson, Nurse Rachel Gomme, Nurse Madeleine Frost.
Photography by Manuel Vason, Almer Hauser, Marty Langthorne and Stephen Dobbie