My friend and I were probably the only non-nurses in the audience. Triage sold out as soon as it was announced. It is a goldmine for Khan because like Georgie Carroll in Gauze & Effect, which I reviewed earlier in the Fringe, it caters to a large audience of nurses. Sensibly Khan has toured the country playing Sydney, Melbourne and now Perth Fringe Festivals. She is a Registered Nurse and works as a Triage nurse when not touring this show.
Her excellent accompanist Lewis Moody entered wearing scrubs and he tinkled an introduction for Khan who took to the stage in a skimpy version a nurse’s uniform, long white satin gloves displaying much cleavage .In a most provocative manner she welcomed us to His Majesty’s Theatre Community Hospital. Did we know that nurses were the world’s number one for sexual fantasy?
Khan has a strong good voice which she uses to clever effect changing characters several times in the show. Her first number skewered Doctors neatly. A doctor adored her various body part and even organs, But He Never Said He Loved Me.
Thereafter Khan delivered a lascivious version of Fever with the odd medical addition such as “Fever all through the night, shift.” She wriggled and posed provocatively and revelled in the appreciative audience attention.
There was an announcement thanking patients for their patience and that a nurse would see them soon. About 5 minutes later, just enough to unsettle us a little, and remind us this was a hospital, she reappeared clad in blue scrubs. Adopting a model’s walk she strutted her designer wear, “the latest from the house of Malcolm Turnbull.” Very clever, very funny.
Then she regaled the audience with details of her rather unusual childhood. Her father was a doctor, her mother was a nurse and their home was a surgery utilizing the lounge room as a waiting room. The family bathroom was also the toilet for the waiting room. Her childhood reading was out of date magazines from the waiting room/lounge. Her mother wouldn’t let her touch the toys in the waiting room because sick children had played with them.
Khan morphed into Kathy a regular in the Triage department. An alcoholic with a boyfriend with violent tendencies. In character and with only an old cardigan as costume change, Kathy sang a sad ballad about Garry, He Was My Boyfriend. She used this segment to underline the impossibility of Kathy ever attaining sobriety.
That was really the nub of this whole very smart script to convey the underlying sadder aspects of nursing, along with the joy of nurturing patients back to wellness. Because of the killing hours and shift work Khan informed us that at 25 she was still a virgin. When she did find a partner she, having handled so many sad, tired old members, was astonished at its qualities. Hilarious, the room rocked with laughter.
Khan moved onto the agony of 2 weeks of night shift. Losing all sense of reality she attempted to open the front door with her car lock only to discover it wasn’t her house. Khan had pre-recorded sound effect of hospital buzzers and ambulance sirens, and these were used to great effect to set the scenes.
The 12 hour night shift had just ended when she received a text telling her father was gravely ill in hospital. Accompanying herself on the piano she sang a beautiful piece about euthanasia, Holding Out for Eu. It was deeply moving.
Returning to her youth Khan told us of her secret ambition to be a singer. There was nowhere to sing in the surgery/house so she would retreat to the family car. In a lovely piece of staging she recreated the scene using her little girl voice to sing Dream a Little Dream of Me, gradually returning to full adult voice. It was terrific.
An excellent and for me educational, insight into the psyche of the priceless, often undervalued members of society.
Zuleika Khan presents
TRIAGE! A Nursing Cabaret
Venue: Downstairs at the Maj | 825 Hay Street, Perth, WA
Dates: 16 – 20 Feb 2016
Tickets: $39 – $43
Part of the 2016 Perth Fringe World Festival