Agelink Theatre celebrates King Edward Memorial Hospital centenary


Cast members David Ratcliffe (Gooseberry Hill), Cassidy Dunn (Mosman Park) and Alinta Carroll (North Perth). Picture: Andrew Ritchie.
Cast members David Ratcliffe (Gooseberry Hill), Cassidy Dunn (Mosman Park) and Alinta Carroll (North Perth). Picture: Andrew Ritchie.

KING Edward Memorial Hospital has been the site of life-changing memories for West Australians since opening in 1916.

So when former King Edward Memorial Hospital gynaecology director Dr Harry Cohen mentioned the hospital’s centenary milestone to Agelink Theatre artistic director Jenny Davis, the writer, director and actor sprang into action and production Life in their Hands was born.

“Although I was worried it would be tricky at first, it quickly became apparent there were lots of good stories from over the years,” Davis said.

“It is a show but it’s not like a conventional play.

“It has to span 100 years, which is a lot to pack in to 90 minutes satisfactorily, so I just picked out the moments, particularly the early years because they have the most fascination to us now.”

Life in their Hands features eight actors, including two children, and 20-voice strong Subiaco choir Voiceworks performing songs from the eras.

The central character is KEMH figure Matron Walsh, who was appointed in 1926 and ran the hospital for more than 30 years.

The other actors play multiple roles, including nurses, doctors, patients and visitors.

“Walsh was an old-fashioned matron and this was her domain,” Davis said.

“People were terrified of her but she also had a heart of gold.

“She had an autobiography written after she retired which was a great source of stories and really useful resource for me to find incidents that would translate well on to the stage, whether they were dramatic, funny or poignant.”

Davis was also helped by volunteers at WA Medical Museum in Harvey House at King Edward Memorial Hospital and the KEMH Centenary Committee.

“Every time I wrote a draft I would send it to the doctors on the Centenary Committee to make sure everything was correct; like when I wrote an account of a breech birth delivery,” she said.

“I felt like I was writing for Call the Midwife sometimes; I think I could write an episode for that show now.”

Davis said her own connection to KEMH was the birth of two of her grandchildren.

“Everyone I speak to, even if they weren’t born there, they know somebody who was or they gave birth there themselves,” she said.

“It is dear to everyone’s heart.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Life in their Hands

Where: Subiaco Arts Centre

When: 2pm and 7.30pm, August 6

Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au