Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Aug 4 – 8, 2015
Playwright: Wendy Harmer, Sancia Robinson
Director: Sancia Robinson
Cast: Gabrielle Savrone
Image by Jodie Hutchinson
Wendy Harmer and Sancia Robinson’s What Is The Matter With Mary Jane? gives exposure to the experiences of patients who suffer from acute eating disorders. It is a passionate work with clear intentions of informing society about lives that are often shrouded in the secrecy and shame of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. The play has a desire to improve awareness and perhaps inspire political action that will help with healing or eradicating these horrific diseases from our communities, which results in a text that is full of enthusiasm but also clinical at times. The work focuses on the processes involved in, but not the reasons behind its protagonist’s affliction, so that it can represent a wide range of experiences unified by manifestations of the illness. The play acknowledges that the causes of these disorders vary widely, but the omission of psychological insight or analysis of specific events that have contributed to its unfortunate circumstances, is a significant decision that prevents the show from engaging with its audience more deeply. Sentimental dramatics might not always be elegant, especially in profoundly personal disclosures, but they are often necessary in helping our heads and hearts in becoming more involved with the story and its message.
In directing her own biography, Robinson brings to the stage an intimacy and truthfulness that can only come from having lived through the ordeal very personally. There are some shocking revelations, but the authenticity in her style of presentation disallows any room for doubt, and important facts from Robinson’s recollections are imparted in the process. Gabrielle Savrone’s portrayal of pain is accurate and moving. We are convinced of her character’s divulgements, and she satisfies the purpose of the work by alerting us to the nature of the problem from personal and societal perspectives. The lighter portions of the play are less effectively performed, but the actor’s conviction is strong, and her work develops with more power as the play progresses.
Self-image is an integral part of every individual’s being. How we live depends largely on how we see ourselves, and for many, physical appearance is a component that can turn into an all-consuming preoccupation, which is actually symptomatic of an impairment that lies deeper than skin. What Is The Matter With Mary Jane? demonstrates an extreme consequence of untreated emotional difficulties that requires our vigilance. Compassion towards others, and having a healthy attitude towards other people’s bodies is a good, and necessary start, that will quickly evolve into the same generosity that we must afford our selves.