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Treading the boards

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 18 March 2013

General practitioners and medical educators Genevieve Yates and Gerard Ingham met while playing in a band and discovered a mutual interest in theatre, writing, music and entertaining. And so, GP the musical was born. Now the Melbourne International Comedy Festival beckons.

Dr Gerard Ingham and Dr Genevieve Yates met for the first time at a band rehearsal. In the middle of the desert.

“It was like Ocean’s 11”, Dr Ingham says. “We were a group of GPs who played music. We’d spoken on the phone and Skype, but never met. We all flew into Alice Springs for the 2010 General Practice Education and Training (GPET) conference. Then we rendezvoused about 100 kilometres out of town at an old station and started rehearsing.”

The end result was Simon and the GPettes, who provided the entertainment for the conference, and went on to such YouTube hits as Honky tonk woman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPjnAqJBnU0&feature=youtu.be), These boots are made for walking (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwS_8w41tuA) and Don’t know why (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9WAjTLUzrk&feature=youtu.be).

“Genevieve was part of the group and I read one of her plays called Physician heal thyself. There was a character called Mr Black, an OCD patient who kept charts of his bowel function”, Dr Ingham says.

“Then I played her a song I’d written when I was a student about a smarmy doctor who never gets rid of his patients, called Come back again. And GP the musical came out of that.”

The show progressed to the point where Drs Ingham and Yates pulled together a cast of theatrically inclined fellow GPs and medical educators following auditions at the 2011 GPET conference in Canberra. They added director Dr Katrina Anderson in to the mix and pitched the show to the organisers in time to perform to standing ovations at the 2012 GPET conference in Melbourne.

In April, GP the musical returns to the southern capital for a short season as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

“It’s a little bit daunting because this will be performing for a broader audience rather than a roomful of GPs”, Dr Ingham says. “But we’re very much looking forward to it.”

For Dr Ingham, Simon and the GPettes and GP the musical have been a way back to one of his first loves, music.

Now living and working as a GP in Daylesford in the Victorian goldfields, Dr Ingham taught himself to play the guitar as a teenager and then entertained his fellow medical students at the University of Melbourne from 1981 to 1986.

“Then from the age of 25 to 45, music just left my life”, he says.

It took a medical education workshop and a postcard to himself to bring music back.

“As part of the workshop we had to write and post a postcard back to ourselves”, Dr Ingham says. “I wrote something about wanting to get back into music. I forgot all about it. But for my next birthday my wife bought me a new guitar.”

For Dr Yates, music and writing have never been out of her life.

“Having started violin at age 4 and piano at age 5, I’ve played and performed ever since”, she says. “I began teaching [music] in my late teens, which paid my way through med school, with up to 30 students a week.

“I get a huge thrill from the freedom of temporarily stepping out of my life and onto the stage as a fictional character.”

In addition to working as a physician in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales, Dr Yates is a medical educator with North Coast GP Training, is on two national medical education committees and has had short stories, plays and a novel — Silver linings — published.

“Collaborating with Gerard on the music, lyrics and script of GP the musical has been a very rewarding and enjoyable experience — despite our having a few minor creative differences along the way!”, Dr Yates says.

Dr Ingham concurs. “We work together really well as a team”, he says. “Genevieve writes the boob and poo jokes, and I do the corny dad jokes.”

For both doctors, music and performing have become integral parts of the way they balance their demanding professional lives and their sanity.

“Yes, I’m a better doctor for having music back in my life”, Dr Ingham says. “It does give me that break, uses a different part of my brain and I can use it to help me get to sleep. It enables me to switch off.

“Doing general practice can be creative — you’re always looking for solutions to problems — but mostly we work on our own. It’s great to work collaboratively with other people on music and the show.

“The value of the band and the show is that they have enabled GPs to have a great time together doing something completely non-medical. It’s a wonderful thing to share.”

GP the musical runs from Wednesday 17 April until Saturday 20 April inclusive at the Gasworks Theatre in Albert Park, Melbourne. Bookings can be made at www.gasworks.org.au or by calling 03 9699 3253.

  • Cate Swannell


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