When I entered the theatre to watch a play about the NHS, I did not expect to witness a dishevelled Michael Sheen performing a musical number. Nye is a wonderfully humorous production with a powerful message – we should look after everyone.

Aneurin Bevan, colloquially known as Nye, opened the first NHS hospital on July 5th 1948. The personal and political journey he took to achieve this momentous goal is laid out in Tim Price’s fascinating new play.

Despite its intentional revelry in the absurd, the play strikingly highlights the significance of social services we now take for granted. At the beginning we see a young Nye using a library to broaden his vocabulary and distract from his stutter. “Hold on, this is all free?”, he questions. We are left to reflect on the fact that when a social programme has become normalised we do not question why it is free or whether people will fairly share the resources provided.

A stand out scene from the first act sees patients in hospital beds tipped on their side to resemble human plinths, transforming the setting into a council meeting. This blending of clinical imagery into the outside world is a clever device used to emphasise how policy directly impacts people’s lives.

A notable feature of Nye is its criticism of Winston Churchill. Up until very recently Churchill was a figure mythologized as a hero of British history. This play argued that whilst Churchill was a great orator, he cared very little about the welfare of the poor in his own country and used the war primarily as a way to prop up his own legacy.

However, it is not just oppositional political figures who are stripped bare by the play, it is also Nye himself. By exploring the plight of Nye’s sister who took care of their ailing father, as well as his wife Jennie Lee who sacrificed aspects of her own political career in order to further Nye’s, the play showcases how many historical male success stories would not have been possible without the overlooked labour of women. Would Nye have been able to achieve his political goals if he were a full time carer? It is doubtful.

Nevertheless, Nye is certainly a celebration of the man himself. The speeches made by Nye throughout the play are deeply compelling, driving all those around me to tears. In an era where political activism is often reduced to a re-shared social media post, Nye has serious motivational potential for those who want to take meaningful action towards helping others today.

Whilst some scenes were crafted more effectively than others, overall Nye achieves it’s goal of reminding the audience of the dangers of rampant individualism. Many talking points against the formation of the NHS were presented as notably convincing at the time, Nye cautions us not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

The play ends with an allusion to a scene very early on in the narrative. In the earlier scene Nye is being caned by his teacher because of his stutter. In solidarity, his classmates place their hands on top of his, willing to bear the unfair treatment together. To mirror this, in the final scene Nye is dying in an NHS hospital. He reflects on how safe he feels knowing that he could access this care no matter what. A team of doctors all reach out to hold him, just as his classmates did.

Finally, he sees his dead father holding a lantern in the distance, a poignant reference to his mining background. He asks: “dad, did I help people?”