Rehearsals begin as a Bendigo group prepares for production of Max Pry, Private Eye

A theatre group says its new play will provide more opportunities on the stage, especially for those identifying as neurodiverse.

The Bendigo-based group is beginning rehearsals for Max Pry, Private Eye this week.

Local playwright Sarah-Jane Fawcett said her work was set in Chicago in the late 1930s and followed Max Pry, a detective who dreamed of becoming a famous private eye like his heroes Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. The only problem was that Max was a terrible detective.

The production was inspired in part by Ms Fawcett’s experiences with Ménière's disease, a disorder of the inner ear which included symptoms such as vertigo, tinnitus, dizziness, and hearing loss.

“What happened was that the fear of having an attack in public was causing me severe anxiety. At the time I was rehearsing for a show and I had to pull out,” she said.

After leaving, Ms Fawcett spoke with a number of people about her experience, including with a girl who had bipolar disorder. That girl said she felt overwhelmed about auditioning for shows, especially two-act musicals.

“She felt they were too much for her and she wanted something she could ease herself into,” Ms Fawcett said.

About half the Max Pry cast identified as neurodiverse, a term that encompassed a range of mental health, attention deficit and autism spectrum disorders.

Ms Fawcett said the one-act play would allow people to build the confidence to audition for bigger, longer shows.

Ms Fawcett said theatre and the creative arts promoted wellbeing and bolstered peoples’ sense of community.

“Feeling as though you are part of the community is very important for mental health, so is being able to express yourself and have fun,” she said.

The rehearsal schedule had been arranged to reduce anxiety and promote creative development by ensuring participants felt safe and respected.

Last week the group launched a fundraiser on Ms Fawcett said the goal was to raise at least $1000 for costumes, sets and other costs.

There were plans to provide Auslan interpreters at matinee performances and all box office profits would go to beyondblue, Headspace and the Black Dog Institute.

The play would be performed in January.

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