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Playwright puts NHS bed shortages centre stage

Empty Beds writer Julia Cranney draws inspiration from her own family’s experiences for Hope Theatre play

02 February, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Carys Wright, co-artistic director of Pennyworth Productions and Julia Cranney, right

A WRITER has drawn inspiration from her own family’s experiences with dwindling NHS resources for her latest play.

As a teenager, Julia Cranney, now 26, witnessed her parents’ struggle to find a suitable hospital bed for her brother, who was diagnosed with an acute mental health illness.

Her play Empty Beds, which is on at the Hope Theatre in Upper Street, draws parallels with her life and focuses on three sisters struggling to cope with a brother facing an under-resourced health service while undergoing a mental health crisis.

A scene from Julia’s play, Empty Beds

Julia’s family were then informed that a bed in a psychiatric ward was available – in Germany.

The Liverpool-born actor and writer said she was well aware of the current strain the health service was facing, especially over the winter months with both parents working for the NHS.

“It seems it’s gotten worse during the coalition government and now the Tory government. We are at breaking point and it’s terrifying,” she said. Of the cuts to mental health services she added: “It isn’t enough to be aware about the growing mental health needs of the country. We can’t just train teachers to talk about mental health when the child doesn’t have access to care.”

She believes if her family had lived in America her brother would not be alive today due to their lack of affordable healthcare.

“We’re lucky but just because we’re lucky doesn’t mean we can’t do better,”she said.

After studying at Cambridge University, Julia trained as an actor at Drama Studio London in Ealing. She started writing plays at Liverpool’s Everyman Playhouse as an 18-year-old but now co-runs a production company called Pennyworth Productions.

Julia’s play will be performed alongside Moments, an exploration of loneliness in a city. They can be seen as part of a double bill at the Hope Theatre until February 17. Both plays are directed by Kate Treadell.

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