Dr Phil Hammond column

It's not every day you hear a surgeon say `Damn. Where am I? I've lost it completely. Tell me when to start'
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The defining moment in last week's Bristol Royal Infirmary revue came when two professors took to the stage, buck naked save for a studded dog collar and a PVC thong (one each). I'd seen them in rehearsal and thought that the subsequent portrayals of sadomasochism and non-penetrative simulation with pretty, leather-clad female health professionals were a trifle misguided. Embarrassing, even. Not even the wonderful accompaniment of Jackie from medical staffing, a dead ringer for Tina Turner, belting out "What You Get is What You See" could save this one, I thought. How wrong I was.

When the last whip had cracked, the applause had died down and we'd relocated prof 2's dentures, I had time to reflect on the functions of the hospital revue. First is the humiliation of authority figures. This works best with a degree of complicity, and apart from our heroic pair doing press- ups under a stiletto, there were plenty of others willing to expose themselves to the cruel glare of the spotlight. And the audience loved them. It's not every day you hear a surgeon say "Damn. Where am I? I've lost it completely. Tell me when to start ..."

The second function is to lay on the kind of entertainment rarely seen outside Soho. All medical revues have dancing girls and dancing boys, and when they appear together on stage it tends to be in exclusively heterosexual poses. Yes, medicine is horribly traditional and usually homophobic - not even the thonged professors would consider whipping each other (well, not publicly, anyway). How refreshing, then, to see the theatre staff dressed as Divine and doing a high-camp strut to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive".

I found it refreshing, anyway, but I'm not sure about the woman next to me. She had never been to a hospital revue before and didn't work at the BRI - although she was due to have her operation there. Behind the frozen smile I could detect a slight unease, especially when the casualty staff performed a botched resuscitation that drew howls of recognition from the audience. Yes, medical humour can have nasty side-effects for those unaccustomed to it. As a student, I rather foolishly invited my parents to witness the St Thomas's undergraduate revue. The show, I'm sure, was excruciatingly awful - two hours of turd jokes on a hard seat - but more unsettling was the interval drinks session. My folks were surrounded by a sea of tired and emotional doctors at all levels of seniority. "Exactly who's running the hospital tonight?" asked Mum, checking nervously for her heart pills. ("Well, you see that man in the dog collar and the PVC thong ...")

Thankfully, there was far more to the Bristol revue than alcohol, bodily function and inappropriate observations of death. There are some rare talents stalking the corridors of the infirmary who until last week were as anonymous as any NHS worker. But who now can eat in the hospital bistro without thinking of Eliza Marquez and her wonderful Bamba? Who can pass the radiology department without a fond reminder of Olivia Alvis and her belly-dancing? And portering, perhaps even life, will never be the same after Martyn Dunn's "Pretty Woman". Since Martyn learnt to sing, they've stopped using muscle relaxants in theatre. What greater tribute to Roy Orbison could there be?

A special mention, too, for Dr Amit Diweeidi, who had the balls to walk into the middle of a medical revue and give a nerveless performance of classical guitar.

There was also an interesting mix of comedic styles. A professor and a drug rep showed considerable mastery of stand-up, and there was a great parody of Riverdance ("from Dublin, the West End, Broadway and now from the Movement Disorders' Clinic at Bristol General Hospital"). Others preferred to rekindle age-old sketches that exposed and celebrated the divisive hierarchy of medicine in equal measure, eg "House officers are like mushrooms. Just keep them in the dark and pour shit on them." Ha ha, laughed the consultants. Ha, ha, laughed the house officers. Thank you sir, may I have another.

There were new sketches, too. A painfully well-observed introduction to the hospital (the woman on my right popped out for a fag after this one) and an obligatory dig at the management ("What do you get if you cross a hospital manager with a pig?" "Nothing - there are some things even a pig won't do").

And some things a manager won't. While virtually every other hospital department contributed to the show and bonded for the common good, not a single non-clinical manager saw fit to appear. Small wonder there's still such an "us and them" culturen

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