Review: This Is Normal (Old Red Lion)

In Stuart Warwick’s new one-man show, we find ourselves in the life of a hospital porter just after lockdown. His workmates are his chosen family, his love life is arranged on Grindr.

In a script that expertly balances moments of humour and pathos, our unnamed porter walks us through a typical day of sample collection, patient trips, and a lunch break snatched in the site chapel.

Gallows humour twists with childhood memories and a dementia patient who remembers what has been important in his life, whether that means he heads to a better place at death or not.

Work chat, a letterbox, and whether a statue of Christ really does look like Chris Hemsworth, all form part of This Is Normal, starting with the absurd recollection of an guinea pig’s funeral during lockdown.

Hospitals can be cavernous places of endless corridors, quite scary as they are stories begin and end, with all the hope and miracles in-between. But for this man, it is home, and all he has.

Promotional image for This Is Normal

In Warwick’s love letter to the NHS being a place of safety, kindness, and care, we are reminded of what the pandemic both took away and gave back to us.

It’s not ‘roll in your seats’ hilarious, but this confessional piece to an unseen and unheard listener does its job and leaves you thinking of issues like the variety of departments, the finality of death, and the wounds homophobia can leave.

One ‘twist’ was easily spotted – by me, anyway – but was handled in a moving manner around a jigsaw, a photo album, and a mobile phone. The porter is in a position to see it all but rarely lets it get to him.

Produced by Blue Dog Theatre and seen earlier this year at Brighton Fringe, This Is Normal is a fine piece of work in which writer/director/actor Warwick gives a strong and balanced performance with one eye on the queer world and one on the companionship of the workplace.

This Is Normal is at the Old Red Lion Theatre Pub until 23 Sep with tickets here.