Medivac: articles

Medivac lands in familiar territory

cast photo

The new Channel Ten drama topped the ratings with its season debut promising something 'better than sex'. But have we seen it all too many times before?

LOUISA AHERNE makes an appointment to ride.

It's A Country Practice without Esme Watson; it's ER without the American accents; it's the concept of the Flying Doctors without the outback… it's Medivac, Network Ten's new local drama.

Hospitals and doctor's surgeries have always seemed to enthral audiences, with shows like The Flying Doctors, GP, Chicago Hope and ER attracting viewers with their latex gloves, blood-stained operating tables and doctor/ nurse romances.

Finally Channel Ten has "got in on the operation" and acquired a hospital drama that contains some fine moments as well as some "let's go save a life" super sudsy moments.

The refreshing thing about this medical drama is that it's a medical drama with a difference.

For starters, it's set and filmed on location in Brisbane and what other medical drama does that?

The series is centred around the operations of the emergency unit of the fictional Bethlehem West Hospital. (The old Taxation Office in Adelaide Street gives a towering performance as the hospital building).

But it's not just any emergency ward, as it specialises in medical evacuations using helicopters.

As with all hospital drama there are the obligatory doctor/nurse, doctor/doctor, doctor/patient and doctor/ administration relationships.

The series contains a helicopter full of seasoned Australian actors with believable performances from Nicholas Eadie, Genevieve Picot and the bald-headed Grant Bowler as life-saving medicos.

Graeme Blundell also stars as tired old Dr Harry Edwards with an "I gave the best years of my life to the job" routine, but sometimes it's easy to wish that he would just choke on his stethoscope.

Nurse Bree Dalrymple played by Danielle Carter is worth a mention for the fact that she's a bossy boots nurse who seems to think that jumping from a helicopter suspended thousands of metres from a rocky mountain, while dangling from a flimsy rope, is "better than sex".

I found this to be particularly amusing but perhaps she just needs to chill-out with a hypodermic needle.

The makers of the series have tried to include the fresh and the original and they do to a certain extent.

Have you ever seen a blood-stained, bald doctor in any other series sing the "Son of a Preacher Man" to his dead patient?

But the series can't be all bad.

Afterall, its premiere on September 10 topped the ratings in the 9:30pm timeslot.

Coming in at number one on the ratings table with an audience of 1.152 million people, it beat Seven's Witness with Jana Wendt (933,000), Nine's Wycliffe (822,800) and the ABC's Foreign Correspondent (478,000).

Let's not forget Queensland Treasurer Joan Sheldon's announcement that the series will inject $17 million into the state's economy.

Overall, Medivac is a mixed bag.

Yes it is another medical drama; yes it does contain some super sudsy lines and yes the tension in some scenes needs to be developed.

If only all the medical staff would stop bitching, Dr Harry Edwards would give himself a lobotomy and Nurse Dalrymple would stick her head in a bed pan.

But it does deserve a look, if only to spot the unmistakable Brisbane sights.

Anthony Grundy

QUT Students Juggling Act

Let's get this straight from the start. Yes, he is related to TV production king Reg Grundy (his Dad's second cousin). But no, he has never even met him.

QUT student Anthony Grundy has landed his first television role in Channel Ten's new medical drama series Medivac.

And one thing he wants to emphasise is that he got the job by his own merits.

"I'm really strict about that," says Anthony.

Having to cram our interview into his busy schedule doesn't appear to phase him. He is calm and relaxed but he checks his watch occasionally—he's got to be at rehearsal in 20 minutes.

At the moment 23-year old Anthony struggles to combine the three roles of university student, theatre actor and Medivac newcomer.

Anthony is completing his final year in a Bachelor of Arts degree. He is also a cast member of Double Take, a QUT production which will play during The Brisbane Festival.

But the biggest feather in his cap comes with the role of Tank, a young nurse working in the team from Medivac. Why Tank I asked?

The reason for his rather unusual name is a closely guarded secret.

Anthony says it may be revealed during the series, which goes to air on September 10 and runs until November.

Medivac is set in the emergency department of a fictitious hospital called Bethlehem West.

Anthony said it's not a soap, "and that's what I like about it. I'm not in it to be Dieter Brummer."

The plot revolves around the relationships of the doctors and nurses as they try and save lives.

The new drama has been likened to the American success story of ER (shown on Channel 9 earlier in 1996).

Anthony said in some ways it is similar.

"It's set in the same spot (an emergency centre) but we do medivacs, and that's the difference.

"When the accident is too big for regular ambulances to handle we actually go out to the person."

These medical evacuations involve the use of helicopters. Anthony says he loves the chopper work. It's part of what makes the whole TV experience exciting.

"It's exciting but it's a job and that kind of overrides the excitement factor."

He said while the end result may look glamorous—it's not.

"In the process of filming it's very, very hard. Hard work, long hours," he says.

Combining the two mediums of television and theatre at the same time has proved very challenging.

He says different rules apply to different mediums and crossing over between the two is sometimes frustrating. He's looking forward to concentrating on one or the other.

"I'm looking forward to concentrating solely and holy on my future career."

What the future holds for Anthony is still uncertain. At the moment he sees his long-term future on the stage.

Television is where the money is but the theatre is where the passion lies.

On top of all his other commitments Anthony also directs amateur theatre. He says he likes to try all different facets of the industry.

"I think it's good to understand what everyone else's job is."

Anthony says his first experiences of television so far have provided a steep learning curve.

"I'm just feeling my way."

He says the practical experience of television has taught him so much more than theoretical university studies.

"Uni teaches you the skills but when you actually get on a set you feel totally unprepared.

"You just think I wish I knew more, I don't know how to act for a camera."

Medivac is not Anthony's first stint on the box. His other critically acclaimed performance was as a happy shopper in a Sunshine Shopping Plaza advertisement.

He's also worked in the television department of K-Mart. One day selling them, the next he's on one. This job came after dropping out of a Bachelor of Business Accounting at QUT after 18 months. Even though he has taken a longer road to his first big break he knows where he is heading.

"I'm a talented, up-and-coming young…" he hesitates "…actor," he says with a hint of sarcasm.

There is no big ego, no falseness and no attitude. He could be just another guy in the crowd. But not everyone gets to be on national television.

By Gail Watson
QUT student journalist
date unknown

Bree and Arch

Junkies need quick fix

Showcase drama a ripoff of ER, but similarities end quickly

Australia's ripoff of ER needs some immediate and intensive surgery if it's going to survive.

Adrenalin Junkies, named after the rush that emergency response workers get from saving a life, is supposed to be a fast-paced medical drama. What comes across on the screen is a low-budget and over-performed attempt that will bore viewers.

It premieres tonight at 10 on Showcase (Cable 24, 31).

Like the slick, realistic and intense ER drama, this 22-part series revolves around an emergency department in a hospital. But all similarities end with its location.

In its first show, dramatic action is attempted with a helicopter rescue in remote, rugged terrain. But it's ruined by inept writers who first make nurse Bree Dalrymple (Danielle Carter) ditzy, then transform her into a fiesty contender as she argues with a doctor while a shattered body, still waiting for help, lays before them.

There are few worthwhile moments sprinkled in the hour. Disjointed, it's difficult to follow as viewers flip between hospital scenes and a rescue site.

And in typical cheap style, there's even a bit of sex thrown in. A nurse and her visitor boyfriend [her husband actually] go for a tumble in an ER room that has drapes for walls.

One of the hour's few great moments happens when a doctor mistakenly passes on some bad news. His reaction makes for a genuine laugh.

While the second show, involving a carnival disaster, is smoother, it still needs serious reconstructive surgery.

In-house fighting continues to run rampant and the touch of sexual drama is absolute nonsense.

Unless you have an hour to kill and don't mind licking mind-dulling wounds, give your brain an advance rescue and bypass Adrenalin Junkies.

By Shelly Decker
Wednesday, January 14, 1998
Edmonton Sun

eugene gilfedder

Acting Crazy

IF ACTOR Eugene Gilfedder is the theatrical god everyone says he is, he has a funny way of showing it. For starters, there are no signs of thespian superstardom in his apparel, a worn white shirt over brown corduroy jeans. Looking down at his feet, encased in soft black leather boots, you spy some pink stitching on the jeans and silently wonder if Gilfedder was the one responsible for the bodgy hemming job.

Then there is the attitude. Not an edgy Russell Crowe kind of attitude, but a sense of self-consciousness from Gilfedder who appears surprised anyone would want to hear what he has to say about his life and his work.

Asked about his 20-year career in theatre in Brisbane, a career that has garnered him three Matilda awards as well as a national Green Room award, and he looks across the room, a little dazed by the thought of it all.

"I don't know what to say about it… it is a bit of a shock sitting here. I don't really feel worn out or old. But, yes, 20 years is a very long time."

At 43, Gilfedder is at the height of his theatrical powers, an actor admired by his peers and revered by almost every acting wannabe in Brisbane, a sort of Svengali of the local theatre scene.

"If you ask young actors which actor they would most like to be they say Eugene," says Sean Mee, artistic director of Brisbane's La Boite Theatre. "He's extraordinarily influential."

Alison Cotes, theatre critic for The Courier-Mail and long-time Matilda Award judge, describes Gilfedder as "one of the most creative and exciting actors that Brisbane has ever had".

"You can never be bored watching Eugene," she says.

Award-winning director Michael Futcher simply says: "He's fabulous."

Mee is a little more direct: "He's just one of those people who gives you the shits. He's a wonderful musician, composer, creator of theatre and actor."

And yet, beyond the fawning circle of fellow actors and directors and the lucky audiences who have seen him perform, Gilfedder's talent receives little acclaim and pitiful financial reward. If he had excelled in football or cricket perhaps his name would be on everyone's lips. If he lived in New York or London instead of Ipswich, perhaps it would even be up in lights.

But it's the way of the world that Gilfedder's unearthly skill in nailing a character hardly infringes on the adoration we shower on our sporting heroes. Even if an actor sometimes needs to duck and weave like Alfie Langer to survive in the uncertain world of the theatre.

Anyway, the obvious road to fame and fortune would have been far too easy for Gilfedder to follow. Those who have watched his career will tell you that he has never been one to take the easy way out, not on stage or in the drama of everyday life. Let's face it, this is a man who did an honours degree in ancient history.

"In A Beautiful Life, Eugene never rested until his own inner logic was satisfied," says Michael Futcher, who directed the award-winning play for Matrix Theatre. "He never faked it, he never rested."

It was Gilfedder's role in A Beautiful Life as Hamid, the intense and nervous father of a family of Iranian refugees hoping to settle in Australia, which won him his Green Room Award in 2001. The play, first staged at the Brisbane Festival in 1998, proved a turning point for him.

It won him national recognition, but it also brought him back into focus as one of our most talented and exciting actors. It also helped a disillusioned Gilfedder lose some of his suspicions about mainstream theatre, and that maybe it could deliver the tough work that excited him.

One of 10 children, he had an unorthodox entry into the world of theatre. He first became entangled in plays and acting as an eight-year-old Brisbane schoolboy when he used his drama lessons as a vehicle for his own creativity—writing and performing skits at the end of the class.

"This became my obsession," Gilfedder says, "as well as music."

He made his debut in the theatre in the mid-1980s after he was spotted busking in the Queen Street Mall and was asked to join a theatrical revue. He quickly found his feet and developed a reputation as an intense young actor who could be called upon to play anything from Moliere to Chekhov to Shakespeare and Ibsen. Friends say he  is capable of much hilarity but his  stage persona tends to be serious—or mad.

"To be very frank with you it was obvious that I am always given sort of loony roles," he says.

Actually, he is playing a suitably mad role in La Boite's seriously weird production, Emma's Nose. Gilfedder plays the part of the deranged Wilhelm Fleiss alongside Jonathan Turner as his protege, Sigmund Freud.

After Emma's Nose he has only a few weeks to prepare for an even greater challenge as Macbeth in Zen Zen Zo's MacBeth: As Told by The Weird Sisters, which opens at the Optus Playhouse next month.

In September, he goes back to La Boite for the world premiere of My Love Had A Black Speed Stripe, a book by Henry Williams which has been adapted for the stage by Gilfedder's wife, Brenna Lee-Cooney.

Gilfedder will play the lead role of Ron the revhead who is obsessed with his Monaro.

"The first line is 'Love me, love my Holden' ," says Gilfedder, who is looking forward to showing off a comic side that is often hidden under a mantle of nervous intensity.

Gilfedder's dramatic independence is legend in the Brisbane theatre scene—for instance, he rarely auditions for a role. Even as a theatrical freshman Gilfedder showed signs of rebellion against the norm, telling one interviewer in 1988 that television "encourages anti-social and inactive behaviour" and that he wasn't interested in being on TV or in film.

In the same interview he spoke of his dream to create a theatrical style unique to Brisbane. For much of the 1990s he tried to make his dream a reality. He was lost to the spotlight as he and his wife struggled to shape their own theatrical world by forming two companies, Fractal Theatre and Mog Roith.

These twin companies reflected the pair's interest in Gaelic music and mythology and an intensely pure kind of theatre.

"I never went to acting school," says Gilfedder, "so my perspective on theatre is from the realm of the value of ideas, the passion for ideas and the passion for perspectives and an interest in theatre as an art form. That is why I have no money whatsoever."

This dedication to these projects won a cult following and critical acclaim—in 2000 Cooney won a Matilda Award for her direction of Dracula and Decadence. Gilfedder also won his third Matilda (he was an inaugural Matilda Award winner in 1988) for his portrayal of Van Helsing in Dracula.

But this faith in their art came at a cost. When he received the award in 2000, Gilfedder said: "It is such a stress, the constant struggle to be able to get something up and sitting on a stage."

That stress led to difficulties in other areas of his career. Mee, who first worked with Gilfedder in the early 1980s in Brisbane at the now defunct TN theatre company, says the "last couple of years have been artistically extraordinarily difficult for Eugene".

Gilfedder is the first to admit it has been a struggle but, typically, he remains determined to live his own life. For example, he and Brenna have decided to educate their two children at home. He says he is "sick of utilitarian approaches to education".

"I think that the education of the mind and the cultivation of the mind is not necessarily possible in a funnelled, career-driven, inform-yourself environment," he says.

Schooling the children at home means that Gilfedder is the sole income earner—a concept he finds a little hysterical.

"Yeah, I bring in all the dough," he says. Gilfedder laughs but the subject of money is a serious one. The gravity of his financial position becomes clear after questions about his short-lived stint as a TV actor in the Channel 10 Brisbane-made series Medivac in the mid-1990s.

He played Dr Wayne Doube, an anally retentive character who irritated everyone—audience included. Considering his beliefs about television and acting, would he do a Doube again?

There's a pained silence before he answers: "It is very complicated for me . . . personally I wouldn't go near the shit. As I grow older I find that whole world is just crap. That's on one level but there is that boring thing of survival. I need the money. I don't get much of it. I need more."

Gilfedder's friends in the theatre business don't want to discuss their mate's financial woes but there is a general feeling that an actor of his stature, who has dedicated his life to  the craft, deserves more of everything—more recognition and more financial reward.

Futcher suggests Gilfedder should be the centre of a commission to perform a great theatrical role, just as writers are commissioned to write a  play.

"Eugene is truly world class. A lot of people in Brisbane don't recognise him. I think this is sad," Futcher says.

"Is Eugene recognised for his talent?" says Mee. "The short answer is 'no'. I like the Japanese model where people are nominated as treasures before they die and become decrepit. This is done at the height of their powers when they are a living resource so the community can get full value of that person's skills. Eugene would be a prime candidate for that."

Emma's Nose, La Boite, until March 16.

Sandra McLean
March 09, 2002
The Courier Mail


Dieter enjoying the high life

IT looks like an action shot from Dieter Brummer's latest TV role.

But dangling more than 10 storeys above the ground from a North Sydney office block is no stunt for Brummer—this is his job.

The former Home and Away heart-throb started work on Friday as a window cleaner on Sydney's high-rises.

The job is not just a money-earner for the 26-year-old, whose last major role on the small screen was in Fox 8's Crash Palace.

Brummer is a keen rockclimber and abseiler. And according to his slightly worried mum, who would rather he gave up his day job, the thrill of hanging off buildings played a part in his taking on the job: "Well, I've never known him to be much of a window washer," she told Confidential yesterday.

"I just hope the thrill wears off soon," she added.

Sydney Confidential, The Daily Telegraph
July 10, 2002