When COVID-19 restrictions were put in place earlier this year, it seemed likely that the curtain would go down on the annual University of Queensland Medical Society (UQMS) Med Revue.
It’s a plot that could have been ripped directly from the show’s script, which tells of the struggles of medical school in a performance packed with comedy, musical numbers and obscure medical jokes, and starring a talented cast and crew of med students.
However, through tenacity, adaptability and a dose of good humour, Med Revue co-convenors Rebekah Gracias, Veronica Ho, Hannah Joy Sazon, Aditya Suresh, and Aude Unternahrer, who are all studying the UQ Doctor of Medicine program, managed to turn tragedy into triumph.
“The only thing certain about our show was uncertainty. Due to the ever-changing restrictions, we had to play the entire process by ear, week-to-week,” they said.
Rebekah, Veronica, Hannah, Aditya and Aude began their Med Revue journey post-exams in November last year, with no idea of the challenges that would lie ahead.
It’s a journey that began with writers’ meetings, where medical students had the opportunity to pitch songs, skits and videos to be included in the show, followed by arranging the musical numbers.
Auditions were then held for actors, singers and dancers, as well as an open casting call for the ensemble dancers and choir. Then, COVID-19 hit.
“In May we held our auditions, callbacks and our first table-read over Zoom. Rehearsals usually start in June, but this year it was July before some restrictions had eased and we were able to hold rehearsals in person.
“The rehearsal process was a huge challenge; we went from large choir and dance rehearsals of more than 40 medical students to very small group rehearsals of just 10 people, at the drop of a hat.
“But the opportunity to socialise in a COVID-safe way in rehearsals in a year when so many events had to be cancelled gave our cast and crew something to look forward to and stay positive about,” they said.
For the first time, the show, which usually takes to the stage before a live audience in mid-August at St Lucia’s Schonell Theatre, instead had to be filmed, scene by scene, at the Schonell and the Brisbane Arts Theatre in Paddington, in the hopes that a screening could be hosted at a later date.
“We were absolutely devastated that we couldn’t hold a live show. But we’re still so incredibly grateful that we managed to film our show instead. None of this would have been possible without the support of our cast and crew, the theatres, and UQMS.
“Despite all the uncertainty and logistical roadblocks, the positivity of our cast and crew was so incredibly uplifting. They gave us the drive to try our hardest to showcase everyone’s work and keep the Med Revue dream alive.
“We still hope to hold a screening of Med Revue should government restrictions permit us to do so,” they said.
The 2020 Med Revue co-convenors said getting involved was a great way for med students to get to know each other and complement their studies with a more creative pursuit. The experience will remain one of their fondest memories of medical school.
“Med Revue has been an incredible opportunity to work with other creatively minded students and has created tight-knit bonds that will last throughout medical school and beyond.
“We have all experienced moments on the wards where Med Revue has come up in conversation with UQ graduates who still remember the jokes and friends they made during their years participating in the Revue.
“Even if our times working on the show didn’t overlap, it becomes a shared experience and fosters a sense of community, with many memories of late nights at rehearsals and last-minute line memorisations,” they said.
As Rebekah, Veronica, Hannah, Aditya and Aude embark on the next step of their careers to become junior doctors in Australia and the United States, what advice do they have for the convenors, cast and crew of the 2021 Med Revue?
“Roll with the punches and enjoy the journey! Med Revue is a chaotic beast that requires communication, patience, and careful organisation to wrangle. It’s a hugely rewarding process to be a part of and an amazing feat to pull off every year,” they said.