MONKEY BAA THEATRE/BUZZ DANCE THEATRE: Elizabeth Fensham's verse novel about adolesecent mental illness has been skillfully and engagingly adapted for the stage.
This production displays yet again a skilful adaptation of an Australian novel for the stage by the Monkey Baa creative team. They have preserved well the lyrical essence of Elizabeth Fensham’s powerful verse novel in an extremely vivid collaboration with Western Australia’s Buzz Dance Theatre. While highlighting key aspects of the protagonist’s fight to beat symptoms of a major mental illness, a rewarding piece of theatre as well as an impressive educational tool has resulted.
The myriad of teenage experience augmented by Anna Boyd’s health problems is economically and artistically scripted. Comedy, tragedy, tension, teenage wisdom and a slow but certain roller coaster of circumstance grab the interest of the audience. We are taken willingly on a bumpy psychological ride that is accessible, poignant and never clumsy in its instruction.
A play dealing with a teenager being diagnosed with schizophrenia may sound like a difficult entertainment to pitch. However, through good direction at the hands of Cadi McCarthy and Sandra Eldridge, this piece’s trail of sharp scenes will endear itself to its high school age target audience. And indeed ages well beyond that.
Themes of growing up, isolation in rural Australia, hardships of a farming family, schoolyard life, school subjects, loss of loved ones and family dynamics wrap this effective lesson on the importance of mental health in an attractive and genuine parcel.
This is essentially a one-woman play, in which an immense range of expression and an endearing, believably rural teenage persona is portrayed by Gemma Yates-Round. Her precise and age-appropriate movement about Rita Carmody’s skewed combination interior and exterior house set are a joy to witness. Her quotes as Ophelia sans anti-psychotic meds from the year 11 high school set text are also beautifully crafted in their irony.
The second character is brought to life through pre-recorded scenes of a growing threatening nature. Peter Fares’ depiction of Jamie ties in effectively. These appear as large projections on the overall set backdrop as well as suddenly invading many surfaces of prop and costume.
In this way the sound and audio-visual team have succeeded in bringing audience members a snapshot of what delusions may feel like. A range of happy, hysterical, tortured, self-harming and terrifying elements of the psychotic state are presented with successful multimedia theatricality. These slick special effects will also no doubt assist in maintaining any teenage audience’s interest. They highlight the anti-drug and positive mental health messages.
Goodbye Jamie Boyd is an emotional romp of self-realisation and a feather in the cap of the Monkey Baa educational output for ages 13+. It breaks down stigma surrounding the necessary no-nonsense and speedy rehabilitation of mentally ill teenagers anywhere, and educates as a frank, thorough piece of theatre.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Goodbye Jamie Boyd
Based on the verse novel by Elizabeth Fensham
A Monkey Baa Theatre and Buzz Dance Theatre Co-Production
Adaptation: Tim McGarry, Eva Di Cesare and Sandra Eldridge
Directors: Sandra Eldridge and Cadi McCarthy
Audio Visual: Dash Visual
Composer/Sound: Kingsley Reeve
Lighting Designer: Luiz Pampolha
Cast: Gemma Yates-Round and Peter Fares
Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre, Sydney
July 31 – August 7
First published on