Jennifer Saunders on how Allelujah tackles "political football" of NHS
"This script is drawing attention to and asking the big question – what are we going to do?"
It's only a couple of days until Alan Bennett's brand new play adaptation Allelujah hits cinemas on Friday 17th March.
Based on Bennett's 2018 play of the same name, Allelujah tells the story of a geriatric ward in a small Yorkshire hospital which is threatened with closure.
The hospital decides to fight back, getting together the local community and inviting a news crew to film their preparations for a concert in honour of the hospital’s most distinguished nurse.
It's a story that celebrates the spirit of the elderly patients whilst paying tribute to the deep humanity of the medical staff battling with limited resources and ever-growing demand.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com about the message of the script and the film generally, Jennifer Saunders (who stars as Sister Gilpin in the film) said: "I think this script is drawing attention to and asking the big question – what are we going to do?
"Because, you know, here's a system that is practically broken because everyone is ageing – there's more old people now than there's ever been because people are living longer."
Saunders added: "And you're in a system that is stretched, every part of it is stretched. We've got to do some thinking about how, if we're going to have this huge ageing population, how are we going to structure this and it has to be structured differently."
Bally Gill, who stars as Dr Valentine, echoed Saunders's sentiment, saying: "Yeah, that sort of investment in it as well – to really invest in it and not just throw money at it – it needs real structural change. And yeah, that's very much needed, and it needs to happen now."
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Saunders continued: "The problem is, it's a political football, so everyone has their own idea there. But what it really needs is a separate entity to sort it out because you can't have political parties using it as a sort of election thing in their manifesto.
"Saying 'we'll do this and then we'll throw this much money at it' – that isn't the thing. What we need is some proper, decent 10-year plan, not a sort of three-year quick fix."
The screenplay for Allelujah has been penned by Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas, with this being the first feature film she has written for.
It also boasts a star-studded cast that includes Russell Tovey, David Bradley, Sir Derek Jacobi and Dame Judi Dench, and has been directed by The Children Act's Richard Eyre.
Additional reporting by Lewis Knight.
Allelujah will be released in cinemas on Friday 17th March 2023. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.
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