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Hospital play takes on big themes

Hospital play takes on big themes

2 September 2015

When do we take responsibility for our own lives and at what moment do we become adults, asks an award-winning play premiering at BATS Theatre in late September in partnership with Canteen.

The Quiet Room, written by Renee Liang and directed by Jane Yonge, is a poetic, engaging, and uplifting story of a teenager grappling with leukemia.

Marianne is about to turn sixteen, the age at which she is legally able to make her own decisions about medical treatment. But her mother and doctor have their own opinions. And then there’s Philip, the cute guy in the next hospital bed…

“I was inspired to write this play by my work as a paediatrician,” Liang says.

“I was single, in my thirties, building a career that was centred around sick young people, but acutely aware that I did not have kids of my own. I was forming bonds with patients and writing was a way to express and deal with that – though Marianne and her mother are composed of many different patients and their families, not anyone in particular.”

“I spend all day around kids, but I had to spend nights reading teenage blogs to figure out how to write dialogue like they speak!”

Despite the dark subject matter, there are plenty of light moments and even some tender comedy delivered by the teenage protagonists, played by Wellington actors Stevie Hancox-Monk and Michael Hebenton. The relationship dynamics between Marianne and her mother (Isobel Mebus) will be familiar to many daughters and mothers.

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Director Jane Yonge, who created the recent Capital 150 Wellington Anniversary hit Page Turners, also has a personal connection to the subject matter. In her early twenties, Yonge nursed her mother through terminal cancer.

The Quiet Room is for anyone who has had a personal connection to cancer, past or present – whether they’ve battled cancer, supported someone with cancer, lost a loved one to cancer.

“Cancer is both deeply personal and, sadly, near universal.”

“The play is for people who have experienced the liminal space between life and death. It’s also a coming-of-age story that speaks to anyone who has strong memories of being a teenager – or raising one.”

Working with lighting designer Jeremy Larkin, sound designer Thomas Lambert, and set designer Nick Zwart, Yonge aims to bring the transitional world of hospital to the stage, while also paying tribute to the chaos of a teenage world.

$2 from every ticket sold goes to Canteen, an organisation which supports young New Zealanders living with cancer through peer support programmes, counselling, leadership development, recreational activities and much more. Further funds will be raised at a gala evening, which will include an opportunity to hear true stories of cancer first hand from teenagers.

Canteen members are supporting the creative team and actors by advising and feeding back on rehearsals, and getting involved backstage.

Susie Robertson, Central Regional Manager at Canteen, says that they are excited about the partnership.

“It’s a way to look at the subject from a different angle, to tell the story differently. Our young people will be excited to see their lives reflected on stage, and we are happy to help make this show authentic.”

Canteen members will be given special access to BATS and Lauren Wepa, a young cancer survivor, will launch her book Cancer and All That Other Shit in a special event at BATS.

The Quiet Room

Marianne is turning sixteen, the age of consent, and she wants to celebrate. But she's got cancer and her mum wants her to risk everything on one last-ditch treatment. Who knows what’s best for the patient? What does it mean to grow up, and how do you decide to live?

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
bats.co.nz, 04 802 4175
24 Sep - 3 Oct, 2015

Canteen: www.canteen.org.nz

Supported by BATS Theatre, Wellington City Council, EAT Trust, and Whiteboard events.


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