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Review: Triage – A Nursing Cabaret

Adelaide Fringe

Public service announcement: Nurse Zule (rhymes with Julie) is too sexy for her scrubs and she knows how to tie you to a bed … legally. ★★★★

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If you’re ailing, then hobble down to the Adelaide Oval Community Hospital and take a seat in the waiting room.

You might be there a while but the triage sister will be with you just as soon as she’s finished seeing the queue of patients who are quicker, sicker or more disruptive. In the meantime, relax and enjoy an hour of insight and entertainment as Nurse Zule belts out the clever combination of reimagined covers and original songs that punctuate her stranger-than-fiction monologue.

Real-life nurse, singer and actress Zuleika Khan is an accomplished performer as well as a highly qualified medical professional. The Division 1 Registered Nurse worked in the trauma ward of Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital to support herself while pursuing a career in the arts, training at NIDA and Sydney Dance Company.

There’s no doubt she’s multi-talented. Each musical number is a treat, in particular a clever rendition of “A Natural Woman”, the Carole King classic, delivered as Zule reliving her eight-year-old-self practising singing while locked in her parents’ car in the driveway.

Khan has a gorgeous voice and she’s at her best when she really lets it rip. The sound system let her down on this evening but, despite the low vocals and less-than-ideal room set-up, she connected well with the crowd of fellow health professionals.

Triage! tells the story of Khan’s unusual childhood. After her father and mother (a doctor and a nurse) converted one bedroom of their house into a clinic, the shared toy box was deemed off-limits. Young Zule was forced to improvise, and so “interesting” pieces of medical equipment sometimes doubled as playthings. If you see a “vintage ice-cream scoop” advertised on Gumtree, whatever you do, don’t buy it.

While the general tone of the show is sharp, tightly-written musical comedy, Khan makes some serious points about the politics of healthcare funding and the need for euthanasia. She tackles the horrors of night shift and its effect on mental and physical health, and highlights the downside of a job where you’re always focusing on worst-case scenarios.

She’s no stranger to death but being capable with patients couldn’t save her from feeling helpless in the face of personal tragedy.

This is the return season of a show that won multiple awards and sold out previously across Australia. Get in quick.

Four stars

TRIAGE! A Nursing Cabaret is showing at the Cathedral Room at LIVE on 5 (Adelaide Oval) until March 5.

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