Theatre for Children in Hospital (Book)

The Gift of Compassion

Recent decades have seen a new appreciation develop for applied theatre and the role of arts-based activities in health care. This book looks specifically at the place of theatre for children who are hospitalized, showing how powerfully it can enhance their social and mental well-being. Child-led performances, for example, can be used as a technique to distract young patients from hospitalization, prepare them for painful procedures, and teach them calming techniques to control their own pre- or post-operative stress. Persephone Sextou details the key theoretical contexts and practical features of theatre for children, in the process offering motivation, guidance and inspiration for practitioners who want to incorporate performance into their treatment regimen.  


Persephone Sextou is a reader in Applied Theatre and research director of the Community and Applied Drama Laboratory(CADLab) at Newman University, Birmingham, UK.




Motivation and beliefs

Arts and health

The structure of the book

Chapter One: A TCH definition and more…

Applied theatre in hospitals

Theatre as an ‘antidote’ to clinical stress

A playful ‘marriage’ of two cultures, the artistic with the clinical in audience participation

The artist–child synergistic relationship

Ethical concerns

TCH and therapy

Chapter Two: The distinctive features of TCH practice and research

Background information of the study

Understanding the clinical context

The study: Methodology

Findings and discussion: TCH practice comes alive!

Chapter Three: TCH as a choice: ‘I want to make a difference!’

A philosophical approach to TCH



My philosophy

Chapter Four: Concluding thoughts


The future of TCH


Appendix One: Breathing with Love, the script

Appendix Two: The shape of our bedside theatre rehearsals 

Appendix Three: Writing a TCH proposal plan (bid)

Appendix Four: Example of application letter

Appendix Five: Guidance for applying for NHS Research Ethics Committee approval (for researchers only)

Note on the author



'Persephone Sextou comprehensively frames Theatre for Children in Hospital (TCH) as a bedside and interactive theatre approach concerned with reframing illness and the identity of children in hospital, and argues that TCH offers children the possibility to have a positive experience in an environment that can otherwise be daunting. The author shares her expertise as a practitioner and a researcher working with TCH in NHS hospitals in the UK, thereby crafting an in-depth analysis both from within the process (as a theatre-maker) and from the margins of the process (as a scholar outside the medical field). The book is written from an artistic and philosophical perspective, placing compassion at the heart of TCH artists’ work with children. This also means that readers in healthcare may find themselves frustrated with the idea of having to negotiate who is more altruistic, the artist or the healthcare professional; and which is more compassionate, the “hard data” or the qualitative research?' 

Ligia Batista Silverman, Medical Humanities Journal

'[I]n Theatre for Children in Hospital Sextou describes a range of institutions (medical and educational) and individuals transformed by the use of theatre in healthcare. Her book takes its title from a particular genre, Theatre for Children in Hospital (TCH), and one of its unique forms: a site-specific bedside performance that addresses a pediatric patient’s immediate needs, as improvised by a skilled and empathetic performer based on a rehearsed script that anticipates the interactions and anxieties common to being in the hospital (38–41,11). ' 

Jules Odendahl-James, Theatre Journal
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