Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: Olivier Theatre, London
Cast: Michael Sheen, Sharon Small, Matthew Bulgo, Dyfan Dwyfor, Ross Foley, Kezrena James, Daniel Hawksford, Bea Holland, Michael Keane, Remy Beasley, Roger Evans, Jon Furlong, Stephanie Jacob, Tony Jayawardena, Rebecca Killick, Rhodril Meilir, Nicholas Khan, Oliver Llewellyn-Jenkins, Mark Matthews, Ashley Mejri, Lee Mengo, David Monteith, Mali O’Donnell and Sara Otung

From campaigning at the coalfield to leading the battle to create the NHS, Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan is often referred to as the politician with greatest influence on our country without ever being Prime Minister. Confronted with death, Nye’s deepest memories lead him on a mind-bending journey back through his life; from childhood to mining underground, Parliament and fights with Churchill in an epic Welsh fantasia.

A simple hospital stage set is transformed by movement of beds and curtains to create scenes as varied as a coal mine, parliament and a library. The addition of lighting by Paule Constable and video footage with projection by Jon Driscoll adding to the visuals. The book, by Tim Price, provided an easy understanding of Bevan Nye's life and 20th Century Britain, and its changing political climate influenced by the miner's tribulations and second world war, amongst other things.  

We join Nye on his death bed, in a drug induced dream as he relives his life and a political career that culminated in the creation of the NHS. The play gives an insight into his single-minded ambition to give equal rights to all, and his, sometimes difficult, relationship with other politicians. There is also focus on his personal and complex relationship with his wife.

Michael Sheen's performance as Bevan Nye from start to end is beautifully played as he flicks between reality and dream. He convincingly switches from adult to child, from funny to emotional, with ease. I have to mention his fabulous rendition of 'Get Happy' which might seem incongruous to the production but was joyous.

Sharon Small played Bevan's wife, Jennifer Lee. She portrayed her as his political equal and we realise how much she sacrificed to support his career. It was a truly wonderful performance. I should also mention the performances by Roger Evans as Archie Lush, Nye's best friend and Kezrena James as Arianwen, Nye's sister. Both gave performances equal to Sheen and Small; emotional, angry and tender.

I could not name a single performance that wasn't fantastic. The cast as a whole, who seamlessly and quickly changed characters between acts, were amazing. This production was insightful, funny, and sad. I left the theatre happy but thoughtful about the NHS; an institution created against all odds and with such high hopes!

You can book tickets to see Nye at the Olivier Theatre, here.

Review by Edwina

**photography by Johan Persson**

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