Shackleton in hospital


With funding and additional donations from various sources, separate to the main programme of ward sessions, the Elevate programme has been able to deliver theatre performances around the hospital. Tall Tree Theatre are regular visitors with their interactive puppet show Shackleton. Shackleton, a wooden dog, has been delighting patients of all ages from young children on Sarum Ward to older people on Spire Ward. Anna from Tall Tree describes her experience of transferring the show to a hospital setting.

“The response from the staff greatly supports what we do. We’re welcomed on arrival with enthusiasm, during our performances a nurse often whizzes passed saying ‘hello Shackleton, I hope you’re behaving yourself?!’ and a cleaner told us last week ‘That’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before. We all need that darling, we all need that’.

But the interactions with patients are the most special, everyone finds their own way to relate to Shackleton. Dogs are loving, they have their own personalities and are often a symbol of home, of past. Some patients watch us, smile and laugh along. Some heckle us and ask Shackleton to do tricks. Some quietly talk to him as though he’s perfectly real, telling him he’s a beautiful dog or comforting him, chatting away about their own dog who is back at home.

We see a huge variety of people each time we visit, across all ages and with different interests but we find they all have something in common; they know how to talk to a dog. As a performer in hospital I cherish the moments we create, each individual and unique to each patient or ward. People open up to us about their lives a little and they go along on the creative journey that we’re offering.

On one visit to the Children’s Ward we met a girl who had been learning Ukulele and had missed her school concert because of being in Hospital. We handed her ours and she played us, the other patients and the staff a song. Another child asked Shackleton to do huge leaps over tables, back flips and more – which of course he did!

Our aim is to bring some conversation, some joy and some fun into the wards. And to see how cheeky Shackleton can be….!”

Visit Tall Tree theatre’s website to find out more about their work.