Students Collaborate with Patients to Create Radio Drama – Central School of Speech and Drama

A team of Central’s MA Applied Theatre students led by Dr Nicola Abraham and Jo James, Nurse Consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, have collaborated with NHS patients on Auchi Ward at Hammersmith Hospital to create an immersive radio drama entitled ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’.

The project started as an applied theatre and outreach project working alongside the staff and patients of Auchi Ward to write and create a collaborative film based on narrative ideas generated through one-to-one bedside storytelling and devising on the Ward.

In early March, as the project was due to start filming, the global COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the project taking a unique turn.  The film project was quickly shifted to a radio drama which, although framed as a science fiction romance, also incorporates unique insights that are reflective of patients’ lives and experiences on Auchi Ward.

The resulting radio drama, entitled ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ is a demonstration of ingenuity, creative thinking and adaptability, and has been described as a ‘love letter’ to the staff at Hammersmith Hospital.   Stream ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ online.

Dr Nicola Abraham, Central’s Lecturer in Applied Theatre Practices and the staff lead and mentor on the project said:

“What an honour to be working with such a dedicated and determined team.  This is the third year of our Auchi project, but this year we have had many unprecedented challenges to overcome.  I’m very proud to say that the team have worked incredibly hard to adopt what we’ve coined the #WaterMethodology in our project.  This involves adapting, and finding new ways to develop the project processes in order to succeed and deliver the project for the patients and staff at Auchi ward.  It has also taught us the value of the arts in the midst of this international pandemic.  Now is the time that applied theatre is needed more than ever, now is the time people need the arts the most, and now is the time to adopt a flexible and responsive approach to support our communities, to advance our practice and to bring hope to the world in whatever form it takes.  I’m very proud of this group and everyone who has kindly supported the project; this is the spirit of collaboration that we aim for, and here it is in action.  Huge thanks to everyone, including our wonderful team, Jo James (Nurse Consultant), Maura Applebe (Matron of the Acute Dialysis Service, Auchi Ward), the actors who have supported the project, and very importantly the patients who designed such an inventive set of characters and narrative.”

Jo James, Nurse Consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said:

“It struck me really strongly how person-centred the students had been with this work. You can really hear the voice of the patients in it, which I think is exciting. You really hear them coming through, and you hear their ideas. The fact that the students have managed to channel those patients’ ideas into this piece of work is fantastic. And I suspect the patients will be really thrilled, because it feels like it’s really been created by them. It’s an amazing achievement to actually come up with this product in these circumstances.  

I think that what’s so interesting about this piece of work is how reflective it is of the patients’ lives.  There’s lots of messages about the way nurses and healthcare professionals treat them.  It’s all about the value of people living good lives and the value of health care professionals.  It’s a real compliment for the Auchi staff, a real love letter to them.”

Soobie Whitfield, MA Applied Theatre Student at Central and one of the project’s Directors said:

“This project has been a real journey as it has ended up in a destination none of us could have  imagined at the start. I am reminded of my favourite beach on the Gower which has an ox-bow river running down a sandy valley  to the shore. The river’s course changes over the years. Where it hits an obstacle it  wears away the softer banks and flows in new paths , new patterns, creating islands and diverting along tributaries. It flows much further east now than it did when I did my Geography A level project there X years ago! Such was the journey of this Applied Theatre project. 

The Auchi ward staff were also an important part of the process. In the short amount of time that we were there they really engaged in the project, supporting us when we had questions, continuing the projects journey on the days that we were not there, all alongside looking after those in their care. You are in our thoughts and we hope you stay safe and well during this pandemic.”

Joy (Jingyu Luo), MA Applied Theatre Student at Central and one of the project’s Directors said:

“It was an unforgettable experience to be involved in this project. Firstly, it is nice to talk to the patients, and we got lots of wonderful and interesting ideas from them. In addition, I want to thank all the people who helped us to finish this project- Dr Nicola Abraham, the Auchi Ward staff, and all the volunteer cast. Thank you for your cooperation and support, especially at this ‘special’ time for all of us. It is special because of the form of the final production. This time, we use ‘radio play’ to replace ‘visual film’. It is a hard decision for us because some of the patients and nurses at first were willing to act and look forward to participating. However, it is impossible to shoot now as the priority should be given to health. I hope the podcast will bring them relaxation and happiness in this stressful time.”

Daniela Parga-Cruz, MA Applied Theatre Student at Central and one of the project’s Directors said:

“When we first embarked in this project, we never expected that it would transform into an example of malleability and adaptation amidst adversity. In a two-week lapse, our community scriptwriting and film producing project faced a global crisis that put our participants and the workspace into imminent danger. With a heavy heart, we had to slowly switch the project to different scenarios, until realising that the best way to continue was by being creative and adapting the project to a self-isolation production. This result would not be possible if it weren’t for the people that eagerly participated throughout the project and helped to keep it afloat. 

I believe that this project is an example of the lengths and multiplicity of applied theatre. Our podcast is a reminder that even at home, we can continue to build up a community, to work for social transformation and support each other’s wellbeing. The podcast and the fantastic people behind it allowed me to find comfort and strength, to remind me that regardless of the current situation, there are new paths to explore. “

Stream ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ online.

What Goes Around Comes Around was created in collaboration between Central’s MA Applied Theatre students and the patients on Auchi Ward, Hammersmith Hospital.  It was directed by Soobie Whitfield, Joy (Jingyu Luo) and Daniela Parga-Cruz and features the talents of the following cast of volunteers, who graciously gave of their time and energy in order to facilitate the completion of this work under unprecedented circumstances:

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