A verbatim theatre project about hazardous workplace and training practices that are making health professionals depressed and sick, Grace Under Pressure was developed in conjunction with the Sydney Arts and Health Collective and was borne out of interviews with over thirty doctors and nurses about the health issues that they face in their industry.
The project is a real eye opener into the healthcare system, where workplace bullying is quietly tolerated and doctors and nurses are overworked to dangerous levels. The hierarchy within the hospital system is exposed as brutal to the younger doctors and nurses in training where they are often dropped in the deep end with little or no support. Several stories concluded with professionals in training dropping out before finishing as their mental health had deteriorated so badly that they were contemplating suicide.
Stories from female nurses and doctors commonly relayed repeated sexual harassment, while both sexes endured regular humiliation at the hands of senior staff, both male and female. These stories make you want to cry out against the injustice of the system that condones such behaviour, as the culture does not look set to change any time soon, without bringing issues to the public’s awareness.
The production featured three women and one man recounting the stories, on a bare stage, with lighting subtly changing from scene to scene, as the stories change. The stories became darker and more bleak until one woman walked off stage, in character, as she was pushed to the limit. At the play’s conclusion she returns and the foursome recount more joyous tales of helping people and the moments that have inspired them to stay in the caring profession.
Brutal and unflinching, yet told gently with humour, Grace Under Pressure is not easy to watch, only in so far as this is not fiction: the abuses that the healthcare workers face are happening every day in hospitals in every suburb, and will continue until changes are made.
Grace Under Pressure is presented by the Seymour Centre and The Big Anxiety – Festival of Arts + Science + People Present and is on until 28 October. For more information and tickets see: https://www.seymourcentre.com/
Featuring: Renee Lim, Rose Maher, Sal Sarah and Wendy Strehlow.
Creative/Tech Team: David Williams and Paul Dwyer (writers), David Williams (director), Paul Dwyer (dramaturg), Richard Manner (lighting design), Gail Priest (sound design) and Isabel Hudson (set & costume design).