TRUE and terrifying stories tantalise May Jasper.
So when she heard the case of the cancer cluster at ABC studio in Brisbane, which saw 18 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 1994 and 2016, her interest was piqued.
“This was a really intriguing story because over the years woman after woman grew sick: six of them sat around the same desk,” the Melbourne theatre-maker said.
“It seemed like a slow-moving slasher film, with the women constantly worrying about who would be next.
“The extra level of creepy is that they have no idea why it happened. There was never found to be any radiation in the building and they moved out (in 2006) simply on the strength that many women getting sick seemed statistically unlikely.”
The stranger-than-fiction mystery festered in Jasper’s mind over several years until eventually morphing into a one-woman black comedy, on show now at Fringe World Festival.
“I like real-life stuff – it’s more interesting than anything you can make up,” the actor-writer-producer said.
“When you look at real-life stories you often find you’re looking at very small stories. When I was young, I wanted to write the big dramatic things like the breakup of a marriage or death of a partner and that’s good but if I really think of the things in my life that have really knocked me for six they are the smallest things, like breaking my ankle.
“The knock on effect that that had on my life makes it one of my big moments and it’s such a tiny thing.”
Using a stripped back stage and mostly sound to carry the suspense, Not a very good story gives audiences an alternative to Fringe’s over-the-top cabarets and circuses.
“I moved the setting of the show to a call centre because the idea of this story happening in the ABC studio has at least some sort of interest and sexiness,” Jasper said.
“But to have such a bland environment like a call centre, where suddenly something around you isn’t right, seemed to be so creepy to me.”
Usually staying behind the scenes, Jasper this time steps on stage and stars in the one and only role, Stephanie.
“Stephanie is nervous and socially awkward but adorable; your heart bleeds for her,” Jasper said.
“She’s not like me – who worked in a call centre and hated every minute of it – she really loves that opportunity to connect with and help people.”
What: Not a very good story
Where: The Blue Room Theatre
When: January 31 to February 4