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Devised performance as a tool for public engagement in acute haematological cancers

Mermikides, Alex; Van de Velde, Ann; Mermikides, Milton; Tanczos, Anna; Weitkamp, Emma

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Alex Mermikides

Ann Van de Velde

Milton Mermikides

Anna Tanczos

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Emma Weitkamp
Professor of Science Communication


Introduction: Dramatic representations of cancer patients play an important role in engaging the public. However, mainstream formats such as Hollywood film, risk sentimentalising the subjective experience of the patient and ‘dumbing down’ the science. This research tests how an ‘alternative’ form of live performance engages audiences. Materials (or patients) and methods: A performance (entitled bloodlines) was created through ‘devising’, that is, through group collaboration rather than from an individually authored play script. This methodology encouraged knowledge exchange within the creative team (a survivor of adult leukaemia, his stem cell donor, medical experts and artists) and resulted in an unconventional dramatic form combining lectures and dance. Six public performances took place between July 2013 and April 2014 in the United Kingdom and Belgium. Audience responses were gathered through post-show questionnaires.
Results: Analysis of qualitative data indicates that the performance conveyed common experiences of haematological cancer patients in ways that cancer survivors felt were accurate, and that laypeople found engaging and thought provoking (79%). Likewise, key scientific and medical concepts were ‘conveyed in interesting and effective ways’ (93%). A key finding was that the ‘hybrid’ form of the performance (a result of the multi-disciplinary devising process) powerfully conveyed both the subjective experience and key elements of biomedical science – that reflects the experience of patients who are confronted with unfamiliar scientific data.


Mermikides, A., Van de Velde, A., Mermikides, M., Tanczos, A., & Weitkamp, E. (2015, January). Devised performance as a tool for public engagement in acute haematological cancers. Poster presented at 30th Meeting of the Belgian Haematological Society, Belgium

Presentation Conference Type Poster
Conference Name 30th Meeting of the Belgian Haematological Society
Conference Location Belgium
Start Date Jan 30, 2015
End Date Jan 31, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2019
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords science theatre, drama, performance, science communication, leukaemia
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : 30th General Meeting of the Belgian Haematological Society


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