GRACE UNDER PRESSURE is a verbatim theatre project about the mental health of young doctors by David Williams, Paul Dwyer & the Sydney Arts & Health Collective (University of Sydney): Claire Hooker, Louise Nash, Karen Scott, Kimberley Ivory, Jo River, Paul Macneill and Jimmy Dalton.

“No doctor ever forgets the excruciating fear of that first day, first week, on the job. Tragically, for some, the fear doesn’t go away. In the nearly forty years since I started medical school, I have known of a number of suicides of colleagues and friends. These are simply the tip of an iceberg buoyed by the many that tried and failed, thought about it and changed their minds, numbed their pain with drugs and alcohol, or walked away from the profession completely in order to keep body and soul together.”

Seeking Answers

Simply asking the questions, “So why didn’t they get help?” or “why wasn’t help provided?” ignores the very significant determinants of psychological distress in the medical community and the barriers to accessing care.

We speak colloquially of medicine as one of the “caring” professions, yet there is ample evidence of the damage that medical practitioners do to one another. Bullying, harassment and “teaching by humiliation” are a common experience in hospitals, particularly for students and interns. Rates of clinical depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviour among this population are twice the national average (Beyond Blue, “National Mental Health Survey of Doctors and Medical Students”, 2013).


GRACE UNDER PRESSURE examines the culture of medical training and health workplaces that is making young doctors sick—and putting patient lives at risk. This unique theatre project opens a critical space for conversation about these often-taboo issues, and can be an important public intervention into medical culture, as well as a compelling, confronting, and deeply moving work of theatre.

Acclaimed verbatim theatre makers David Williams and Paul Dwyer, in collaboration with Dr Kimberley Ivory and colleagues from the Sydney University Arts and Health Collective, have developed the performance from interviews with interns and medical students as well as senior doctors and representatives from the specialist colleges and the Australian Medical Association.

The Big Anxiety Festival 2017

The interviewing process with young medical professionals from the networks and contacts of the Arts and Health Collective commenced in November 2016. A first draft of the performance text, then a reading to stakeholders was held at Seymour Centre in mid-March 2017. Rehearsals commenced in August 2017, leading up to the world premiere at The Big Anxiety Festival in October 2017 (as part of Seymour Centre’s Great Ideas Performance Series).

The team has very clear ambitions for its content, outlook and impact. The performance material will explore confronting themes about harassment and victimisation.

You can download a copy of the program here: