A Jam-Maker's Guide to Self-Preservation

Fri 7th – Sat 15th August 2015


Holly Willis

at 08:58 on 9th Aug 2015



When I first heard that this show was NHS-themed, I wasn’t particularly thrilled at the prospect of yet more satire of the British healthcare system. What stops it from becoming just another NHS satire, however, is that the cast is in fact made up entirely of medical students. It is an informed critique of the welfare system which varies in terms of quality, but is consistent in enthusiasm and passion. An energetic mixture of songs and sketches, this show had me smiling from the outset and even feeling a bit emotional by the end.

There are moments of sheer genius. Highlights include a song entitled ‘Chlamydia’, sung to the tune of West Side Story’s ‘Maria’, and one hilarious scene involving a paediatric surgeon who can only comprehend ailments when described as if to a child. The technical side of things, however, sometimes lets the MDs down. The oh-so-promising ‘Waiting-Room Tango’ suffers from the backing music being too quiet, which means that singers sometimes miss their cues. There are also one or two instances of off-key singing which stand out, as the cast generally have lovely voices. Although a few cast members had a tendency to over-act at times, such as one over-exaggerated grumpy receptionist, the acting is generally of a high standard.

The script is sharp and well-written, and is often innovative in its methods of poking fun at the hospital system. A self-service diagnosing robot is used to mock the A&E triage system, whilst the election of the new Health Minister takes the form of a lottery-style game show. The MDs demonstrate the flaws of the NHS in a way that mocks but is not aggressive, and is perceptive rather than over-the-top. Set and props are used in abundance to great effect, but it is the costumes in particular that stand out. From full Cat in the Hat get-up to the clever use of a red sleeping bag as an appendix costume, it is clear that the cast have gone to a great deal of effort to bring each sketch to life.

This show is by no means perfect, but the energy of the cast is infectious. Whilst the humour wasn’t always to the audience’s taste, such as one slightly disgusting sketch about gynaecology, on the whole the reaction in the room seemed very positive. The overall impression created is one of an extremely flawed and even ridiculous NHS, but one which these future doctors care about and are committed to changing for the better. If you’re in the mood for some fun and intelligent satire, look no further than this talented group of medics.


Rowena Henley

at 10:01 on 9th Aug 2015



With perhaps one of the most misleading titles at 2015’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, A Jam Makers Guide To Self Preservation is a comedy sketch show about the happenings and hilarity one can find within an NHS hospital. Having dragged my tired feet around all of Edinburgh that day, I was very much looking forward to an hour of comic genius, considering this was a revue troupe founded in 1898. They’ve had enough time to get the formula just right.

At first, however, I was bitterly disappointed. The show began with a revised rendition of Chicago’s ‘Cell Block Tango’, set in a modern-day hospital waiting room. Although, I’m sure, vocals and dance moves are not the actors’ top priority, the performance was a little awkward and lack-lustre. These performers should most definitely stick to their day job. The ideas within the song (replacing ‘squish’ with ‘sick’, for example) felt obvious, tired and unnecessarily crude. Thoroughly dissatisfied, I settled in for a performance which followed suit.

However, like a fine wine, A Jam Makers Guide To Self Preservation bettered with time. As the hour progressed, the comedy and concepts became increasingly impressive and the show really began to pick up speed. The humour, at points, was incredibly intelligent and truly hilarious.

Highlights of the show must have been The Cat In The Hat receiving his sexual health results, the recurring appearance of a midwife ‘magician’ and the recreation of Ghost’s famous pottery scene during a thyroid examination. Each joke had a flavour of Seth MacFarlane, which allowed for the performance to tap into the comical zeitgeist of the moment and showcased the intellect of the show’s creators.

The sketches’ topical humour (references to the failings of our Health Minister and the appearance of Nicola Sturgeon), however, fell a little flat for me. This is an area particularly hard to master and should be polished and perfected before next year’s show. The joke about jam (if attempted again) should also be worked on also, as its inclusion was contrived and out-of-place.

A Jam Makers Guide To Self Preservation is well worth an hour of your time if you are in the mood for some easy viewing and some light relief. The piece’s humour ranged from the truly hysterical to the upsettingly mediocre, but with a little more practice this show could be brilliant throughout.


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