FOCUS catches up with Octavia Barron, one of the stars of new Australian musical Breast Wishes and talks about the show, breast cancer and Bra-B-Qs.
What is the story behind the musical Breast Wishes?
It’s an original musical and it follows the story of a family – two sisters, their mum, their cousin, Sal, and my character, Lyn’s husband, David.
It follows their different relationships with their breasts, and when illness strikes one of the members of the family, how they all deal with it. It’s first and foremost an uplifting comedy.
Of course, there are some serious moments. You can’t deal with illness, without there being moments of poignancy. But, it’s first and foremost a big comedy. There are some big laughs in there. It’s such a treat. We get spoilt every night we perform it.
Tell us a little bit about Lyn the character you play.
Well, she was the one who was genetically blessed – or cursed – she’s a buxom lady, so to speak. Her sister, Carol, played by Angela Kennedy, isn’t so ‘blessed’, so there’s a little bit of sibling breast rivalry.
There’s a little bit of “be careful what you wish for”, as you can just never tell what it’s like for the other person. There are always blessings and difficulties with each size and the whole spectrum in between.
The musical deals with breast cancer. For women who’ve had a mastectomy, this is one of the most difficult and emotional roller coaster rides in their life. What kind of reaction are you getting from audience members who might find themselves in that position?
What’s been wonderful is that we’ve had groups of survivors come through, and they’ve just adored it. They’ve said they’ve laughed a lot, but they’ve also cried in recognition of what they went through. There’s an important message in there about keeping vigilant. It’s been a real honour to have those women come through.
They’ve said unanimously that it’s an accurate representation, that they’ve enjoyed the musical and that they’ve also appreciated how it’s been depicted. It’s a big honour. You kind of know the writers are really onto something when you have flesh and blood survivors there saying this is how it is and this is an important message.
Breast Wishes has been written by some serious comic talent (including Wendy Harmer), and the fact that it IS a musical allows you to get away with tackling this subject, which otherwise you might not be able to?
Absolutely. And there’s something about music that can make comedy funnier. It also makes sadder moments that much more poignant and beautiful – there’s a catharsis. With the genre and this particular musical, there’s an element of light heartedness with it.
Have you noticed if there’s a lot of special artwork up in theatres for Breast Wishes?
We’ve had quite a few breast decorating competitions in the venues where we have performed.
What are some of the best ones you’ve seen so far?
I think my favourite was one that was decorated with kinds of plastic dog toys in the manner of meat and that kind of stuff. It was titled Bra-B-Q. In Renmark (South Australia), they did one for Breast Awareness Week, and suddenly there were just bras everywhere. It was incredible. Just extraordinary.
On a more personal note, has being part of this musical made you take your breast health a lot more seriously?
Well yes, definitely. Being before the age where you get regular mammograms, it’s something that is now at the forefront of my mind. My mum has had a couple of scares. Doing this has made me realise that it’s not pleasant to have a mammogram, but you don’t need to worry about finding something – it’s missing something that you need to worry about.
The earlier you can get it … I think I’ve decided that it would be better to know and know early, as it’s so much more treatable now. It’s kind of like voting for me now. When you can do it, you vote early and you vote often.