The musical WICKED is usually known by its characteristic green colour, but when the show opens in Melbourne on Saturday night, there will be a considerable touch of blue when beyondblue becomes WICKED's official charity partner for this Melbourne season.
To kick-start the partnership, a special charity fund-raising event was held last Sunday, when tickets were sold to the final dress rehearsal of this blockbuster show. All proceeds from the night went to beyondblue, with close to $83,000 being raised from this one night.
Photo: Jemma Rix (Elphaba,) beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell and Lucy Durack (Glinda.)
CEO of beyondblue, Kate Carnell, said the donation would contribute towards the work of beyondblue in reducing the stigma associated with depression and anxiety, and encouraging people to seek assistance.
Carnell said, "At any one time, a million people in Australia will have depression and two million will have anxiety, so it is highly likely everyone will know someone who has been affected."
beyondblue has partnered with sporting bodies, businesses and schools already, but this will be the first theatre partner for the organisation. The aim is to reach a new audience with the beyondblue message in an environment where they are comfortable.
“The partnership of WICKED and beyondblue forms a natural marriage. WICKED’s messages of good, the importance of acceptance and anti –bullying ideals really aligned us with beyondblue,” says John Frost OAM.
I caught up with the beyondblue Chairman, Honourable Jeff Kennett AC, to talk about what this partnership means to beyondblue. While there is an immediate financial benefit to beyondblue, Kennett is very quick to explain the greatest need for beyondblue is not simply the money, but rather the public education and awareness of mental health issues. Kennett explains that beyondblue does not form partnerships with any group in order to raise money, but rather to raise awareness. He explains that education is required to remove the stigma of mental illness from our society and to encourage people to talk about their problems and to seek help. Kennett is aware there are many people in the arts sector who don't seek the help they need – and he hopes this partnership between WICKED and beyondblue can help to promote change.
One such way to promote change will be the distribution of beyondblue information in the WICKED Education Program. Over the last 10 years, hundreds of thousands of students from around the world have experienced and learnt from the important messages in the story that is WICKED and the Education Program will continue on this path. WICKED inspires discussion about friendship, accepting differences, personal values and the consequence of choices. It looks at the effects of all types of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination and explores the importance of truth and how society defines good and evil, making it an excellent tool for spiritual, social and moral understanding. Within the show there are themes about bullying and WICKED recognises that bullying can be a factor in people developing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Kennett reinforced this need for education, saying how important it is for people to understand what mental illness is, learn to recognise the changes in your own body and how to react appropriately to these early signals. Kennett says too often people don't recognise the early symptoms of mental illness for what they are and, as a result, don't know how to react. By the time they realise, it is much more difficult to resolve.
When beyondblue first started 14 years ago, no one was talking about mental illness and Kennett acknowledges we have come a “million miles” since then. However, he knows there is still much more to achieve and it is through partnerships like this one with WICKED that Kennett hopes to get the message of beyondblue out to the general public.
Kennett missed seeing the production of WICKED the last time it played in Melbourne, but admits he has always loved the title of the show and is keen to see it this time round.
For more information about beyondblue www.beyondblue.org.au
WICKED is now in previews ahead of opening night on Saturday 10th May.
WICKED will play for a limited season in Melbourne before moving to Sydney then Brisbane. For details go to www.wickedthemusical.com.au