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Using Drama in the Care Sector

Drama is quite common in the care sector. (I mean drama in the sense of theatrical performance, rather than in the sense of daily life.) I see this from my position as a vendor of scripts and show rights, rather than as a practitioner in the field; I can tell you about various approaches, but I can’t tell you what will work in your circumstances, so treat this as a source of ideas, rather than as a template for action.

There’s a spectrum of uses, depending on your purpose and the capabilities of your performers. At one end, there is a group of actors (service users or carers) performing to an audience. At the other end, there’s readers’ theatre - a group picking up a script, each taking a role and reading it at sight. Both of those can be useful in the care sector, as can a variety of the stages in between.

My mother was a member of a Townswomen’s Guild drama group who, as they aged and became less adept at memorising their lines, evolved into ‘The Nearly Mobile Drama Group’. They still performed to the wider membership, but did so using “rehearsed readings”. They prepared beforehand and developed their characters, but in performance they read from the scripts, largely whilst seated.

A friend of mine was encouraged by an enthusiastic care-home resident to run a murder mystery evening - the sort of thing where a small group performs and the audience has to work out whodunnit. (This proved very successful, despite the interjections of her sponsor, whose improvisations bore scant relationship to the plot.) There are a wide variety of styles, but some require little in the way of set and props and some are well suited to rehearsed readings.

We offer quite a lot of scripts written in verse; mostly pantomimes and similar light comedy (although there are a couple of serious pieces). These may be useful for groups with learning difficulties (and possibly some cases of memory impairment) because the rhythm and rhyme give additional patterns which make learning easier than irregular prose.

There are lots of things to consider when picking a script: number of participants, length (considering the capabilities of the actors and the attention span of the audience), style, content, and so on. (The Lazy Bee Scripts web site has a search engine that works with these parameters, and all the scripts can be read in full on the web site so that you can assess suitability.) Then there’s the business of licensing. For scripted drama, you need scripts. For performance to an audience (other than members of a class or workshop) you need a performance licence for the particular script, for which you need to pay a fee. (Fees vary enormously. Lazy Bee Scripts has an automatic discount for performance licences for use in the care sector.)

Drama can be used as a vehicle for exploration and development. It can also be a lot of fun for everyone involved.

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