In June , three MA students who are currently studying Applied Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London worked with CHOC Pretoria and Johannesburg to bring a South African Bush Adventure to the CHOC Pediatric Oncology Wards. They created immersive and participatory performances where children in the wards were taken on an adventure with Zodwa the Zebra, forgetful Ellie the Elephant, playful Cassandra the Kudo and Leo the Lion.
The storyline incorporated games, challenges and sensory objects to encourage the children to participate in the performance. The performance was devised through improvisation and discussions of games that would be most enjoyable and accessible to children with a number of physical needs. The hour long performance Created a new and exciting world in the ward and used sensory activities such as building a raft to cross a river, exploring objects in the memory tray game to help Ellie get her memory back and blowing bubbles. Sensory objects, play and participation in theatre have proven to alleviate anxiety and the students found this to be true as the children thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the sensory activities, especially blowing bubbles.
“As Applied Theatre students, we believe that the arts have a number of positive qualities and can have positive effects on hospitalised children,” explains Abigail. “Sharing a smile or a laugh has proven to reduce anxiety, alleviate pain, and allow children to play” continued the Abigail. The aim was to bring some joy to the wards, distract the children for a short time and give them an opportunity to play in a different context to what they are used to. “What an amazing experience this was! We learnt an enormous amount and hope that we were able to bring a little joy into the lives of the very special children we met,” says Annabelle.“We are extremely grateful to CHOC for this opportunity and for the amazing work that they do for children all over South Africa and we would love to work with this amazing organisation again in the future!” continued Annabelle.