'Things That Matter'

A play of our times

'Things That Matter'
Image used with permission of the Auckland Theatre Company.

It’s not often you get to go to the theatre where our public health system is being dissected right before you. Auckland Theatre Company’s current production ‘Things That Matter’ by Gary Henderson confronts you with the very real choices health professionals face every day. Life and death played out across the stage.

Henderson has adapted David Galler’s widely read memoir ‘Things That Matter: Stories of life and death’ into a powerful stage experience. Described by the NZ Herald as a love letter to Middlemore the work is grounded in the author’s own life and times. It is an insight into the work of the Middlemore and the challenges it has as New Zealand’s largest hospital. Care decisions, racism and prejudice, poverty and the strength of humanity are all so strongly portrayed. It’s a very real Auckland story.

“David Galler came from a Polish-Jewish family, devastated like so many by the holocaust, and became a beloved doctor who dispensed wisdom and grace alongside lifesaving therapeutics," - Jonathan Bielski, Artistic Director & CEO Auckland Theatre
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The book that inspired the production.

Galler has held many leadership positions in the health sector, including being the President of Salaried Medical Specialists, Principal Medical Adviser to Directors General and Ministers of Health. More recently he has been the Executive Lead for Te Whatu Ora, responsible for developing Te Mauri o Rongo the NZ Health Charter.

Director Anapela Polata’ivao says, “I was raised in South Auckland and over the years I have felt a notable shift in morale in the community. Things That Matter gives a sobering account of the state of poverty and the state of the food industry and the alarming impact these serve on our mute and marginalised communities; this makes ‘Whatever happened to personal responsibility?’ almost impossible to fathom. It makes you want to weep. And rage.”

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Polata’ivao is right. I came away from the theatre challenged and disturbed that our promise of the health care that is so disrupted by modern realities. The entrenched attitudes and interests clashing against the real lives of families and whānau.  But I also saw how our health professionals strive to make it work, and the reality of the politics at play. Dedicated people making a difference where they can. Galler’s own family experience of the holocaust is woven into the work demonstrating the tragic enduring legacy of the circumstances that families find themselves.

This work is based on real life events and everyday dilemmas and I think future historians will use it to gain insights to what was really shaping our public health in this time.

For more information, visit https://www.atc.co.nz/auckland-theatre-company/2023/things-that-matter/ or watch https://youtu.be/4qFt8MkbB9k