‘Life in their hands’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by August 8, 2016

‘Life in their Hands’ is a wonderful and engaging collection of stories, penned by much-loved, local playwright Jenny Davis for Agelink Theatre Inc. – the group Tim Minchin has described as ‘theatre of the heart’.

As a musical celebration and tribute to 100 years of King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, fondly known as ‘King Eddy’s’, and their work assisting mothers and babies; Agelink Theatre and the King Edward Memorial Hospital Centenary Committee have joined forces to bring us memorable events from over the years.

Vocal Ensemble ‘Voiceworks’, the 15 strong, Subiaco Community Choir, under the direction of Maggie Wilde West and Joshua Webb, add to the memories, by reviving charming songs from the 1950s and 60s. The keyboard accompaniment was by Gavin Nicklette. The technical direction was by Aaron Stirk, and the production managed by Bernie Davis.

On Saturday 6th August, for one day only, there are two 90-minute performances; the first at 2.00 pm, and the second at 7.30 pm in the main auditorium of the Subiaco Theatre, Subiaco Arts Centre, 180 Hamersley Road, Subiaco.

 

The choir are seated at the side of the stage. In the centre of the stage is podium with a matron’s tall desk and chair.

       For the first 80 years of giving birth in Western Australia, parturition took place at home, a dangerous process. A few charitable clinics appeared, but these could be expensive and prohibitive to the general public.

 

      The play begins with a stirring meeting in 1909, led by Dame Edith Cowan (Sarah McNeill). A decision is taken to sell bricks at a shilling each, for the new hospital. Soon, enough money was raised to buy and convert a deserted, rundown school for orphans.

      Initially, twenty beds were created under the supervision of Matron Agnes Walsh (Polly Low) and the dedicated Irish ward Sister, Mary Carson (Alinta Carroll). With Dr Clements (Benj D’Addario) working tirelessly for the cause, the hospital expands. As a cute 6-year-old patient, Saskia (Saskia Haluszkiewicz) recalls, it took her lifetime to reach 100 deliveries in half a year.

       A young newspaper reporter (David Ratcliffe) is dispatched to write an article on the miraculous new gift to the women of Perth, King Eddy’s. He catches the eye of a trainee nurse (Cassidy Dunn), but marriage could mean the end of her career.

       With World War 1 under way, the newspaper boy (Oliver Haluszkiewicz) is kept busy informing Perth of the European tragedies, and local losses.

       We are shown how the hospital blossoms with the hard work of the dedicated team, and how today, 60,000 babies can call King Eddy’s their first home.

 

Directed with love and passion by Jenny Davis and her assistant director Laurie McAinsh, this play brought tears, along with outbursts of chattering in the audience as various surgeons’ names were mentioned and warmly recognised. With the talented cast giving numerous cameos of radio reports, visits from the toffee-nosed aristocracy, and a mother with countless children, the tales were poignant and delivered with plenty of belly laughs – no pun intended.

The musical interludes with songs of the time, gave us an uplift after the depressing description of the conditions of the building and the lack of facilities. Even 50 years ago, when many of the audience would have been alive, the pregnant mothers suffered at the hands of the male chauvinists on various committees.

A fascinating, fast moving piece that is relevant everywhere; it could easily be modified and produced almost anywhere in the world. An important part of our history.

Another triumphant play from Jenny. Her celebratory Centenary Book is also available.