Case Studies

Bedside Theatre

  • Artist(s):
    Bedside Theatre
  • Artform(s):
    Theatre
  • Commissioner(s):
    Newman University, Drama Department, Community & Applied Drama Laboratory (CADLab) at Birmingham Children’s Hospital
  • Funder(s):
    Newman University, Drama Department, Community & Applied Drama Laboratory (CADLab) at Birmingham Children’s Hospital
  • Venue(s):
    Birmingham Children's Hospital
  • Health Need(s):
    Positive mental health for inpatients at Birmingham Children's Hospital
Summary:
Bedside Theatre was a project created and researched by Newman University, Drama Department, Community & Applied Drama Laboratory (CADLab) at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Project Information

Bedside Theatre was a project created and researched by Newman University, Drama Department, Community & Applied Drama Laboratory (CADLab) at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The vision was to create a piece of theatre which could be performed to children and their families next to the bedside, and at the same time explore what difference this makes to their health and wellbeing.

Children at cardiac and cancer wards of Birmingham Children’s Hospital have opportunities to forget their worries and learn valuable relaxation techniques when Drama students from Newman University visit the hospital in July, September and October 2013. The volunteers from the university’s CADlab (Community and Applied Drama Laboratory) research unit perform at children’s bedsides Breathing with Love, a special adaptation of Lori Lite’s ‘A Boy and a Turtle’ by Persephone Sextou. The play helps them deal with pre and post-traumatic stress and anxiety and offers moments of relaxation and entertainment on the wards. Breathing with Love is the outcome of a successful three-year research study in partnership with BCH, NHS. With a cast of two actors and a turtle puppet, the performances are designed to be highly portable, allowing children who need to stay in bed to interact fully with the show making them feel special. As well as performances on the wards, CADlab also presents the play at the hospital’s Play Centre, allowing children and families from across the hospital that are well-enough to do so to enjoy a more sociable experience. CADLab performances in hospital are supported by W. A. Cadbury Trust and The Grimmitt Trust.

The research was conducted alongside clinical staff on the units, and included comparing the results with a control group. The findings indicated that the project proved to be very successful in encouraging children to be more cooperative in terms of taking their medicines and distract their minds from illness. The research also suggests that this approach helps distract the mind from illness and stabilises patient’s blood pressure and cardiac responses. Hospital staff and parents responded there is a need for this approach, especially in areas such as oncology where children have long-term health problems. It helped the CADlab develop an approach using theatre that was suitable for hospital settings, was flexible enough to work in a range of spaces and between emergencies, and also which was able to offer equal opportunities for children from various backgrounds and language understandings to watch theatre with their families and relax.

The CADlab also offered students an opportunity to be more involved in the community and able to work in hospital environments. The research findings are being disseminated within the arts and health community and there have also been specific sharings with psychiatrists, nurses and medical students. The future of the project is positive and there are discussions exploring how it can be repeated and expanded into other paediatric settings.

Click here to read more about Bedside Theatre.

Lead for Patient Experience & Participation at Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust: ‘It helped them (children patients) relax and remain calm, distract from illness and enjoy their time in hospital. It has been delivered with enthusiasm, professionalism and understanding to the needs of our children, families, staff and the Trust. It has been greatly welcomed by children, families and staff and has played a valuable role in ensuring that we deliver such high quality activities. The project also showed commitment to learning as it disseminated its research results to medical and drama students and staff in HEIs making BCH proud of its role in the community.’