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Introducing "dog": Exploring OCD and Addiction Through Theatre

Delving into the complexities of OCD and Alcohol Addiction, dog is set to offer Sydney audiences an unfiltered glimpse into the lived experiences of those grappling with these challenging conditions.

Written by Shayne the play serves as a poignant reflection on the misconceptions surrounding mental health issues and addiction.

Shayne - Writer & Producer 'dog' KXT Thetare
Shayne - Writer & Producer 'dog' KXT Thetare

In this exclusive interview, Shayne shares the inspiration behind dog and the journey in crafting a narrative that authentically captures the struggles and triumphs of individuals navigating OCD and alcoholism. From the initial spark of creativity to the collaborative efforts involved in bringing the production to life, Shayne provides insights into the creative process and the profound impact they hope the play will have on audiences.

As the Sydney premiere of dog approaches, Shayne discusses the importance of fostering meaningful conversations about mental health and addiction, both on and off the stage. Through post-show panels and community engagement initiatives, dog aims to spark dialogue, challenge stigmas, and advocate for greater awareness and understanding of these critical issues.

You can read our full Q&A with Shayne below.


What inspired you to write 'dog', and what drew you to explore themes of OCD and alcohol addiction in the play?

Shayne: As someone who has OCD, I am very aware of the misconceptions around my condition. Some people still believe the misconception that OCD is just the completion of an action to achieve order or cleanliness - or whatever it may be. People who know, will absolutely know, that OCD goes so much deeper than the actions that appear on the surface.

dog was written for people who don’t know what it is like to have mental ill health. I wanted to create a witnessing of OCD. A space where an audience member – who has no connection to OCD – can watch a person ‘experiencing’ it, in all of its layers.

I don’t have lived-experience with alcohol addiction but I have witnessed it in my close relationships and I find it to be quite similar to OCD. They are both actions to escape a deeper root cause. At times I don’t think people see alcohol addiction as an illness nor would they link it to mental ill health. So I wanted to write something that made that connection.

Hopefully, audiences leave with a little more compassion than what they walked in with, for people living with mental ill health.

How did you approach the process of writing a play that delves into sensitive and mature themes such as mental illness, addiction, and suicidal ideation?

Shayne: Slowly. It took me two years to finish writing it. In that time it had a lot of developments and readings and rewrites. For a while, I didn’t even look at it. In terms of the themes and sensitivities... I kind of just went for it because I know the world of it. I live alongside my own mental ill health every day – it’s ebbs and flows – and I just wrote from what that feels like. Having voices and opinions outside of my lived experience, who understand mental ill health (and also those who don’t), was important to me in my approach to the themes. I had friends, actors, directors and writers read it and give their expertise so that I could gauge how the work was being perceived and how it feels from the outside.

This play being authentic and respectful is the most important thing to me and the team.

'dog' is presented by We Are Not Producers with support from White Box Theatre Company. Can you share any insights into the collaborative process and how it has influenced the development of the play?

Shayne: I love that it allows me to release myself from the process a bit, to be honest. I have written this thing and then I can pass it along to see what it inspires in others; the actors and their craft, set, sound, lighting design and all the things that make theatre feel real.

It’s kind of like a reverse pass-the-parcel. I add my bit and wrap it, then pass it to the next person (who adds their bit) and then it becomes this big exciting thing we’ve all wrapped up together and the audience can unwrap it each night.

I also feel like it’s in safe hands. White Box Theatre are leaders in staging new Australian work and have had great successes with shows like DEAD SKIN – a queer Australian play that premiered in 2021. We Are Not Producers have previous experience in producing shows that represent specific communities, often vulnerable ones. They have always ensured their shows partner with established organisations to generate meaningful conversation (post-show) and link communities together.

So I am very excited to have them on board for dog, because they will create a space where conversations about the themes in the play can take place and those who identify as living with an invisible disability or living with mental ill health can feel represented and connected.

I was met with so much opportunity. Especially from KXT on Broadway, who gave me space and time for play developments and readings.

As someone with lived experience with OCD, how did you ensure that the portrayal of OCD in 'dog' is authentic and respectful?

Shayne: This play being authentic and respectful is the most important thing to me and the team. It was written from a place of lived-experience and I felt comfortable exploring that part of myself with foundations built by my personal support network (friends, family, psychologist etc).

It is a show that depicts, in real time, alcohol addiction and OCD. So, the dog team are working closely – throughout the rehearsal process – with a mental health and intimacy coordinator who is helping to support the script, its subject matter and its staging. We as a team are very aware that these themes and their representation can be triggering to audiences. So we have made it a priority to provide clear and honest content warnings that state what audiences are going to witness onstage. We have also received resources from Reach Out Australia, Lifeline and the Matilda Centre that will be made available to audience members post-show – if they would like them.

As someone with OCD, triggering someone is honestly one of my biggest fears. Throughout this process, I have had the realisation that it is impossible to guarantee that no one will be/get triggered by the show. But, it is still our number one priority.

What challenges and opportunities did you encounter in bringing 'dog' to the stage, and how do you envision the future of the play and its impact on audiences?

Shayne: I was met with so much opportunity. Especially from KXT on Broadway, who gave me space and time for play developments and readings. Since then I have been selected to be a part of the KXT Step Up Program which will allow me to build relationships with mainstage theatre practitioners. It’s the first time I’ve been called an ‘early career’ playwright and to be honest it’s a little overwhelming! But in the greatest way haha.

And on the future of the play and its impact... I hope that dog is a conversation starter that leads to practical change for audiences. Be it in the foyer post-show or at family dinner 3 months later, I hope that meaningful conversation about mental ill health and addiction happens.

Around that, we do have two post-show panels after each Sunday performance of dog that I would like to plug. On Sunday 26th May we have a post-show panel on The Misconceptions Around OCD, Mental Health and Invisible Disabilities with support from the Mental Health Commission NSW, Invisible Disabilities Australia and Batyr Australia. I’m particularly excited to hear Tim Heffernan, the Deputy Commissioner of the Mental Health Commission NSW speak.

On Sunday 2nd June we have a post-show panel, Men’s share night: The Importance of Acknowledging Mental Health and Addiction and How to Get Help. This panel is with support from Sydney University’s Matilda Centre, Acon NSW Suicide Prevention Team and the Sydney Local Health District Alcohol and Drugs Service. I am so grateful to be able to have these conversation happen!


Dog at KXT on Broadway is on from May 24 - June 8. If you would like to read more about the show or buy tickets, you can find all the information here:

You can follow the journey of creating this show @dogkxt2024 on Instagram or dog @ KXT on Broadway, Facebook.


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