Tom Stokes, Kate Skinner and Anthony Gee in MUSIC. Pic Kurt Sneddon
Sarah (Kate Skinner) and Gavin (Tom Stokes) try to reach out to a disorientated Adam (Anthony Gee) in Jane Bodie’s new dramatic work, MUSIC. Pic by Kurt Sneddon

My experience over many years of quickly skimming a writer’s program notes in the theatre foyer before heading into a show is that generally they are written in a very dry, bland manner.

This accounts for the reason why I was completely blown away by Jane Bodie’s writer’s note for her new play MUSIC currently playing at Kings Cross’s Stables theatre.

Bodie gives the very personal story behind MUSIC. Her brother, who she is very close to, has a psychiatric disability and she has seen him experience a lot of lack of understanding and intolerance of his condition. His suffering has been the inspiration to put pen to paper- to write a play that gives a sympathetic, accurate portrayal of what life is like for a person with this disability, in the hope that it creates a greater understanding and respect for sufferers. Here is a quote directly from the program.

‘So each word of the play was written with a huge respect for that suffering, courage and for the rare moments of light, through understanding. I’d think my brother would be proud of what the play says about a subject that he knows more about than most, for my attempt at an illumination.’

I usually write dry reviews. Not this time! No bland listing of the scenario and the strengths and weaknesses in the performances by the actors. I am going to write a review in kind to the playwright’s note.

I loved MUSIC! Bodie’s intimate knowledge and understanding of the world of the psychiatrically disabled comes across in very word. The audience well and truly get to feel what it’s like,  paraphrasing Harper Lee’s famous phrase, to get inside the skin of a person with a psych disability and walk around a while.’

The common features of people with this disability come across:- scattered, uncontrolled thoughts…hyper behaviour/gestures… conspiracy/paranoia theories…‘childlike’ naivety…easily being led even manipulated…out of control enthusiasm…issues with personal boundaries…too trusting…gullibility…vulnerability…lack of good life/domestic and money skills…poor grooming…untidiness disorganization.. anger tantrums..hyperness… the list goes on…

Bodie is blessed in the play’s first ever production by having a fine director Corey McMahon and a wonderful cast to vividly bring her story to life. Anthony Gee is extraordinary in the lead role of Adam, well supported by Tom Stokes, Kate Skinner and Sam O’Sullivan. The creatives complement and comment on the action well, particularly Nate Edmondson’s soundscape and Verity Hampson and Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design which often replicates Adam’s oscillating moods.

The lyrics to the late American singer songwriter Joe South’s classic song, ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ come to mind:-

 ‘If I could be you, if you could be me, for just an hour

If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind

If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego

I believe that you’d be surprised to see that you are blind.…

 Walk a mile in my shoes

Hey, before you abuse, criticise and accuse

Walk a mile in my shoes.’

Spending 100 minutes in Adam’s shoes in MUSIC was a tough, exhausting experience. If theatregoers do not come out of seeing MUSIC with a greater appreciation and understanding of what people with a psych disability go through, then to quote another popular song, they must truly have ‘hearts of stone’.

Highly recommended, A joint Stories Lie These and Griffin Independent production, MUSIC opened at the SBW Stables theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross on Friday April 4 and is playing until Saturday 26 April.