Hope springs from Gretel’s actual story of a stroke

Daughter Chloe, left, with stroke survivor Gretel Burgess, who stars in her personal dance-theatre manufacturing “A Stroke of Luck”. Photograph: Andrew Sikorski

A PLAY concerning the expertise of getting a stroke is about to take the stage in Canberra, however it’s been a very long time coming. 

“A Stroke of Luck” displays the real-life story of stroke survivor Gretel Burgess, a dancer and social employee who, at 42, had a stroke whereas holidaying within the Daintree forest along with her household.

She has, on her personal admission, been blessed. 

“I’ve been actually fortunate I had youth on my aspect and I had a dance background, which helped,” Burgess tells me. 

Certain, she misplaced her driver’s licence, her capability to stroll with ease and a little bit of peripheral imaginative and prescient, however it wasn’t lengthy earlier than she received them again and was to work with stroke survivors each week, studying simply how lucky she had been.

Raised in Sydney, Burgess had initially educated in communications and theatre media at Charles Sturt College in Bathurst. 

A pure dancer, she travelled on a scholarship to a college in Padang Panjang in West Sumatra in 1999 to be taught Indonesian dancing, a talent she was in a position to make use of dancing with asylum seekers when her husband was posted to Christmas Island.

She, her husband and her three youngsters, led a peripatetic life-style for a few years whereas he labored and she or he studied social work. 

After the stroke, they ended up in Canberra, the place she met up with Pip Buining, a former instructing colleague from the famed The McDonald Faculty in Sydney and by now a well-established director in Canberra. She would turn out to be director and dramaturg for “A Stroke of Luck”.

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Though Burgess has found many artists who’ve skilled medical circumstances undergo health-funding channels, her fortunate streak prevailed all through the event course of and she or he has obtained some ACT authorities funding.

“A Stroke of Luck” started as a 10-minute dance created and carried out by her for “Dance on the Edge” at Belconnen Arts Centre in 2018, adopted by a second such work at Belco in 2019, and a 3rd in 2021.

Lastly, the thought coalesced right into a full-length work in three sections, earlier than, throughout and after the stroke, and final 12 months she approached QL2 Dance at Gorman Arts Centre for assist to create a full present. 

Partly 1, “Coagulation”, her real-life daughter Chloe, 18, performs the villainous Blood Clot, presumably induced, new analysis suggests, by a connection between worry and excessive office anxiousness. 

Half 2, “Diversion”, offers with the sheer terror Burgess skilled in September 2014 when she was unexpectedly hit with a stroke. Right here Chloe turns into herself as an eight-year-old, because the play focuses on the connection between mom and daughter after the stroke.

Partly 3, “Legal responsibility”, the motion will get humorous, for in creating the play, she and Buining found that some elements of her post-stroke life have been not only a bit amusing however hilarious. 

For one factor, Burgess developed a buying habit, shopping for 25 variations of the identical costume, a canine costume, a trampoline and a vacation to NZ, which received the entire household into lots of bother. 

Based on Buining, dance-theatre is a really apt description of what the present is, with motion, costumes and lots of props – consider all that buying.

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“We’ve by no means tried to make mild of it, however Gretel has at all times been fairly an eccentric persona so she at all times brings pleasure and 100 per cent of who she is to what she does,” she says. 

And does her play have a cheerful ending?

Effectively, she’s doing fairly properly, having labored with youngsters and youngsters with Down syndrome in Canberra, adults with stroke and acute mind damage and likewise instructing for the Wellbeing dance applications at Belco Arts.

However Burgess would like to say, it’s been “extra like a case of creating lemonade out of lemon juice, utilizing one thing disagreeable to create one thing nice.”

“A Stroke of Luck”, QL2 Dance, Gorman Arts Centre, Braddon, February 24-26.

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Ian Meikle, editor