This is Not a Medical Satire

City Gallery cinema, Wellington

22/02/2007 - 03/03/2007

NZ Fringe Festival 2007

Production Details

By Estevez Gillespie
Directed by Steve Wakeem


Is it so impossible for a psychotic to exercise his/her fears through doctorhood?”

This is the question that runs through “This is not a medical satire,” the brainchild of Wellington based actor/writer Estevez Gillespie.

This totally original and as yet unseen show takes a bite out of the medical industry and the characters who populate it. At the heart of Gillespie’s dark and electrifying script are the arrogance, egomania and vulnerability that hide behind the clinical mask of professional medicine. This theatrical piece brings out in four scenes, four doctors and four wildly neurotic medical conspiracies for examination. This is the show that will make you think twice about visiting your GP next time you get the sniffles.

Dr Onasis teaches endocrinology to bemused students while haunted by visions of perfect mammaries, while Dr Sam Wilkin wages war against Satan on prime time television. Dr Geelen is more concerned with her ongoing legal battle and the healing qualities of Beethoven’s 6th. And Dr Cade Henshaw, well… suffice to say that a severed arm in a vending machine and a tense job interview would make anyone fearful of an A.I controlled prosthetic.

The pus will fly, the cysts will throb, and the thought of trusting your health to a complete stranger in a white gown will never be so dangerous again.

The Cast

Estevez Gillespie, trained by Barry Henderson and Delphine Morgantti and has also worked under such names as Grant Tilly, Ellie Smith and Adam Donald.

David McKenzie, a resident of Mt Victoria, has been involved with theatre for forty years. Most recently in Masterclass and The Underpants at Circa.

Tom Martin, a resident of Northland is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington’s Theatre and English Literature programmes. With recent roles in short films that includes the 24hr film competition

Jean Slobbe from Paparangi has performed most recently in a New Players production of Social Climbers, also acting in last years Fringe Festival in Just Add Water.

Bonnie Stanway has a Diploma in Teaching Speech and Drama. With performances in both drama and musicals most recently, as well as Co-Director of Little Shop of Horrors.

The Director Steve Wakeem studied Theatre and Law at Victoria University of Wellington.

Estevez Gillespie
David McKenzie
Tom Martin
Jean Slobbè
Bonnie Stanway

Theatre ,

1 hr 20 mins

Less than satisfying

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 06th Mar 2007

Another play which has a body lying on stage as its opening scene is writer/director Estevez Gillespie’s This is Not A Medical Satire, a show similar to Brain Power in that while it has some interesting ideas, as a piece of theatre it doesn’t work. 

Essentially Gillespie is taking a cynical look at the medical fraternity, in particular the premise that even though eminent surgeons always wanted to be doctors what would happen if some unexplained event took over to interfere with their chosen profession? A German doctor trains as a musician to be a physician, an amputee becomes the head of a new amputee clinic … 

Each scene is long on rhetoric and short on action and although funny in places and well performed by five very competent actors – Gillespie takes the main role in three of the four scenes – they more often than not become turgid and silly, making this a less than satisfying piece of entertainment.


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Radical surgery required

Review by John Smythe 23rd Feb 2007

The title tells us: This Is Not A Medical Satire. Fair enough. So what is it?

Actor/playwright Estevez Gillespie has imagined four scenarios involving doctors whose professional practice is warped by formative childhood experiences. Thus:

§      Endocrinologist Dr John Onasis (played by Gillespie) has based his career on an encounter with his mother’s best friend’s mammaries as she helped him cut his 6th birthday cake

§      Hellfire preacher Dr Sam Wilkin (Gillespie), a child of the Southern States Bible Belt, sees the Devil’s pitchfork in the structure of the womb and therefore (as Plato did) advocates hysterectomies as an antidote to hysteria

§      Beethoven-loving Dr Madeleine Geelen (Jean Slobbé) is trying to be a musical biologist because her hard-of-hearing parents thought she said “physician” when she expressed her desire to be a musician, and had her educated accordingly

§      Dr Cade Henshaw (Gillespie), who lost one arm as a child while trying to save the life of his hypoglycaemic mother, in the throes of childbirth, continues his quest to specialise in amputations, or rather in limb, external organ and half-body transplants …

In a court room scenario Gillespie – clearly a versatile actor – also plays a lawyer opposite David McKenzie, who earlier plays a pyjama-clad husband and the amputation / transplant interviewer. Jean Slobbé also plays a cadaver and a tumour-afflicted patient. And Bonnie Stanway offers a nice comic line in naïve students and sexy nurses with the brains to be surgeons themselves.

The absurdist extremities of these plot scenarios give rise to wacky characterisations and some inventive staging (the director/producer is Steve Wakeem) … And? Their reasons for being elude me. As creative ideas, they are the same one in four different forms.

Despite being speakable and performable, the script is very over-written. Vast parts of the raw idea are still being worked out on paper, in long-hand, rather than distilled to a piquant essence ready for public consumption. Radical surgery is clearly required to allow it to function as a fit and healthy organism able to enjoy a productive life.

But that can only happen when the play’s purpose is clear. If satire is the objective, what is being satirised? If it’s an exercise in absurdism (itself a form of satire), which parts of the human condition or social structure are being taken to their absurdist extremes?

Of course if the major objective is simply to create acting opportunities for oneself and others, that’s not enough to earn the good will of audiences. Is it? That would just be showing off. Wouldn’t it?


Anonymous March 1st, 2007

I'd just like to add, thesbians are very lucky to have opinions made about our work, so that we can continue to grow and shape future productions and performances. Don't bag people who are continuing to help our wonderful community flourish. If there weren't varied opinions about shows, they would not be making impact. And, in a sense, isn't that what theatre is all about? Challenging views, telling stories, and providing a stage (quite literally) where we have a voice. You go John. I think you're doinga damn good job.

Moya Bannerman February 26th, 2007

Yay to David – it had to be said. This site is not a garbage dump. My feeling was – is – that such comments as those posted above his, and some elsewhere, are so incoherent they speak for themselves. They certainly do no favours to the show they hope to defend. John’s obviously happy for people to express differing opinions, he wouldn’t have added this facility otherwise, and he knows he’s not infallible. But like David says, let’s keep it constructive and about the work, not the people. A tip to comment posters: work out what you want to say in Word or Notepad first; revise and edit (as the reviewers obviously do); then, when it’s ready, copy and paste.

David Lawrence February 26th, 2007

Erm, let’s lay off bashing John for a bit, please? There have been several posts lately that well surpass any perceived ‘nastiness’ in the content of John’s reviews (and I’m not necessarily attacking anyone above personally – I could have attached this post to several different threads over the past week). Yes, we’re all entitled to our opinions, and yes, in the past I’ve seen John slate shows I’ve enjoyed and rave about shows I’ve thought were absolute shit BUT during Fringe time the fact remains that John is the ONLY PERSON reviewing ALL of these shows, while the rest of us may only see a handful of shows (or perhaps even just one) and therefore have no context to measure them against. I’m sure one particular script or actor or production may seem great if it’s the only thing you see, but when you’re giving up your time to see as many as four shows per night every night of the week, you cannot help but compare the standards of one show against another. In this day and age, when arts coverage is a low priority for The Dominion Post and where the Capital Times’ theatre reviews are bound by space limits, we should be grateful that John is taking the time – unpaid – to see all of these productions and get reviews of them up on the ’site as quickly as possible, whether we agree with his opinions or not. If it weren’t for John, many of the shows in this year’s (and previous years’) Fringe Festivals would have had NO COVERAGE AT ALL. It’s also worth pointing out that, since he has financed it entirely off his own back, this is essentially John’s site (even though he has established it for the greater good of the NZ theatre community/industry) and he can say what he likes. You wouldn’t log onto someone’s personal blog and post stuff like “Your review is bullshit”. This is not an industry for the faint-hearted or weak-willed, and there’ll always be someone who won’t get or like what you’re doing, so just take the criticism, or ignore it, or whatever. Let’s by all means enter into conversation and debate and discussion and disagree about plays & productions, but can we do it in an intelligent and adult manner, and without turning it into a personality attack on the reviewer?

clement frued February 26th, 2007

the reviewer seems baffled and out done. he appears to have answered his own snaring questions and missed the point? theatre was in dire need of such a commentry. FINALLY A PIECE OF THEATRE WHICH PUT OUR BRAINS TO USE. LIKE A FILM ONE HAS TO SEE TWICE. " THE MAIN ACTOR MUST BE FROM ANOTHER PLANET" (MY WIFES SENIMENT) WHERE EVER DID THEY COME UP WITH SUCH TALES. WE WERE RELIEVED AND REFRESHED. C.F.

clement frued February 26th, 2007


Mel Stevenson February 26th, 2007

Smyth's nasty ending to this review was not what the cast attempted or came accrose as doing. It seems John projects his opinions as if true ! Or at least correct which I feel not to be the case. This piece of theatre I found to be thought provoking and enjoyable to watch . I cannot say enough about the acting which I found to be of a high standard. Gillespie in the court room was excellent. A good show on the whole. Keep up the good work.

David February 26th, 2007

John Smyths moan to groan and back to moan groan .

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