As musical theatre writer, Xavier Brouwer, of new Australian musical ‘Grey’s Lobotomy’, suggests himself, ‘it boggles the mind that a hundred years after Florence Nightingale demonstrated the importance of smoothly running public health systems, we still can't get it right’. In fact it really is quite laughable, and as such, provides some great material for a high-energy satirical musical. Focussing on the warped governmental priorities and sometimes unrealistic outcomes expected from widespread (and often farcical) health campaigns, Grey’s Lobotomy appeals to the audience’s understanding of logic and common sense, emphasising the need for change.
While the subject matter could very well have felt dense and lacklustre, the constant references to and parody of particularly famous health campaigns of the past, including Life.Be.In.It’s Norm and Libby and the Grim Reaper allowed a sense of familiarity for the audience and further encouraged them to engage in reflecting on how little our society has progressed. It was a treat to hear murmurings from within the audience that iterated these sentiments – scoffs at the ad campaigns that were played between scenes, nudges to the person next to them and nods and shakes of the head in response to the inflated stereotypes upon the stage. It was evident that the audience was receiving the message loud and clear.The songs were simple and catchy, and certainly fit the mood of the show. While some of the lyrics did seem a little underdone and quite uninspired, and at times as though the cast were writing improvised songs as they went, this raw feel added to the overall feel to the piece – the focus on the average Australian simply trying to voice their thoughts as they are caught up in the mess of those in power.Choreography was fun, varied and appropriate to the piece. The cheese-factor was through the roof, but that was exactly what was called for. Music direction was generally very good, and it was unfortunate that the sound quality did limit the enjoyment of some of the rather strong vocal performances.
The cast were certainly up for emphasising the comedic side of something with the potential to come across rather bland. Each cast member, in their various roles, exuded the necessary energy and Aussie charm with exceptional consistency. While the cast as a collective gave very passionate and commendable performances, two particular highlights include Penny Larkins and Morgan Phillips. Larkins’ comedic timing was spot on. For the most part it was the cheeky looks to the audience or subtle reactions to the goings-on on-stage that really made her performances as a variety of characters, ones that were certainly memorable and relatable. Phillips was a knockout throughout the entire piece, but most notably as the Grim Reaper. His ability to feed off the energy of the audience, whilst manoeuvring himself within the crowd was hilarious.
By the end of this piece, theatregoers are sure to feel some connection to the public health issues that are ongoing in this country. If you feel as though you should be more informed (let’s face it, that’s most of us), learning through this very funny night out at the theatre is certainly a good way to do it.
Photos: Michael Diakakis