Review: Grace Under Pressure highlights the need for change in the medical industry

Grace Under Pressure examines workplace and training within the health industry and presents a verbatim theatre project in which four performers recite transcripts from real interviews with healthcare professionals at varying stages of their careers. Created by David Williams and Paul Dwyer, in collaboration with the Sydney Arts and Health Collective, Grace Under Pressure presents frank, honest and at times disturbing accounts of bullying, sexual harassment and depression.

The performance is divided into six parts: Introductions, First Experiences, The System, Power, Crash and At the Edge. As the audience is taken through this journey it is both uplifting and unsettling. Each story begins with hope, expectations and excitement but this quickly fades as the pressure builds. You can feel the despair as a consultant physician describes driving to The Gap with the intention of committing suicide. An Intern makes similar comments and describes the fear of telling anyone in case they lost their job.

However, even in the darkest places it seems humour can prevail – at times heartbreaking but also humorous – accounts of uncertainty and stress are contrasted against stories of fulfillment and friendship. It’s a testament to the director and producer that the transcript is compiled in such a way to have the audience disturbed one minute and laughing the next.

The performers – Renee Lim, Rose Maher, Sal Sharah and Wendy Strehlow – are exceptional. Each portrayed different roles, from a nurse academic and a hospital manager to a former surgeon and paramedic. The audience becomes heavily invested in their stories, as the cast speak to the crowd, and each other, as if they are old friends. There were no costumes, no elaborate set design – just some microphones in what could be described as a rather sterile environment. There was nothing to distract you from their stories and with stories like this, nothing else was needed.

Grace Under Pressure shines a light on an often overlooked and taboo subject, highlighting the need for change.

Grace Under Pressure was on at the Seymour Centre from the 25 – 28 October. For more information check out their website. The writer attended on 28th October.