Gambling – Two Sides of the Coin

Scripted and directed by Catherine Simmonds

To raise the subject of gambling in a group of people can usually cause a heated debate, and opinions range from sympathy and pity to anger and disgust.

In October a number of performances by a group from Monashlink took place across the eastern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The performers were a group of problem gamblers who came together to share their stories with others.

One of these performances took place at the Doncaster Playhouse, a small and inclusive theatre that allows for good interaction between actors and audience. It was interesting to note that no one nationality or culture was involved, and no particular age group or personality. The performers took us through their stories in words, song and actions – a mammoth task considering there was little in the way of scenery, props or costumes. It was loud and over the top at times; there was laughter and sorrow and also tremendous courage in this public display of their addiction, and their determination to overcome it. The audience were delighted to be included at times, even when they were reminded that gambling affects all types of people and that anyone feeling smug that “it wasn’t them” should be aware that even buying a Tatts ticket or a raffle ticket was gambling on a small scale.

Everyone’s story was poignant, and so many times you felt that if your life had turned a different way perhaps that could have been you. However one story stood out; the participant was a businessman who once who had it all – money, prestige and family – but because of his addiction had lost it all. He confessed that he had often thought of ending his life, but realised that this would only add to his family’s distress, so he fought on to overcome his addiction.

The performance left the audience with a great deal of food for thought and, hopefully, a better understanding of gambling addiction – the phrase it brought to mind was “walk a mile in my shoes”.

These performances stem from Monashlink‘s 2014 Ruin to Recovery project, which was a resounding success. From this project came an anthology edited by Arnold Zable, a dramatisation for the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival and a performance at Parliament House earlier this year.

Isabel Bromfield
Return to Bulletin #135