Xavier Brouwer was working in IT for the Department of Health when the idea to write Grey’s Lobotomy occurred to him. He was hearing stories of the stretched working conditions, performance targets, stressed staff and lack of resources, but the story idea was developed further when he spoke to the heads of various organisations. What surprised Brouwer was not the openness of people to share their issues, but their willingness to even be “on the record” with it all. Finding the material for the book of Grey’s Lobotomy was not difficult – it was harder to reduce all the wealth of content ideas Brouwer had uncovered.
Grey’s Lobotomy revolves around Emergency Department nurse Violet Grey, her co worker Psychiatric Nurse Whitey who is missing a psych patient thanks to the cuts to the security budget and the hospital administrator Ms Black who is only concerned about meeting the hospital KPIs and avoiding the dreaded ambulance by-pass which would result in penalties to her hospital, effect her budget and ultimately put her job on the line.
Grey’s Lobotomy is an all new Australian musical that will appeal in particular to those working in the public health system who will appreciate just how spot-on the biting satire actually is. The pressure to discharge patients and free up beds. The need to avoid by-pass at all costs. The irony of certain health campaigns from the past. In fact it’s not hard to know when you’re sitting in an audience surrounded by health care workers. They’re the ones laughing before the show has even commenced. “Code” announcements are called out over the PA system as the audience are entering the theatre. The first few codes have the audience chatting about the choice of colour and the “emergency” being called out (the real health workers quick to point out what those codes really mean in their work place). But as the codes continue – such as Code Cyan for no ink in the printer – the laughter is followed with comments of “let’s make up our own codes at work”. And this before the show even starts.
The musical then takes the audience into the world of a busy public hospital, where quality patient care must be balanced against tight budgets. Interspersed through this story thread is the marketing world – and the challenge of selling health messages to the general public. The audience are shown clips from previous campaigns that will immediately be recognised by most older audience members: Norm and Libby in the Life Be In It campaign, the Grim Reaper and his bowling alley of people. We then meet Norm and Libby in current day life. Libby is still exercising, while Norm hasn’t paid any attention to his health.
Grey’s Lobotomy is a good night out for a group of health care workers who can not only appreciate the truth in the show, but can have a good laugh and hopefully get rid of some of their workplace stress. In fact, Grey’s Lobotomy may be just what the doctor ordered; as they say – laughter is the best medicine.
Grey’s Lobotomy is playing at the Alex Theatre, St Kilda until July 26th.