Health Acts

Health Acts: Applied Theatre, Health, and Well-being

27 – 28 April, 2011 - Department of Drama, University of Exeter


What is theatre good for? Does performance have a part to play in longevity, quality of life or well-being? Can applied theatre and performance practices be understood as health-giving acts? As the population lives longer, as community care renders health and illness more visible, as society responds to looming crises of health groups dying too young or living too long, health in all its precariousness, it would seem, is firmly on the public agenda. Moreover, within applied theatre and performance practice the proliferation of activities in hospitals, surgeries, care units, rehabilitation centres and related settings is startling.

Conversely, is the dynamic between health and performance one of mutual co-dependency as both practitioners and academics seek new avenues for perceived public ‘engagement’? How, and by whom, are embodied beings located in representations of ill-health or un-wellness? Is intervention in health issues always an empowering experience for those involved or is it merely a contemporary trend? Should we be talking about theatre interventions in health or multi-agency initiatives addressing growing social inequality? Can theatre have an impact on well-being without taking into account the social determinants of health? What model(s) of health does applied theatre draw on?

This conference seeks to address these questions and explore the plural relationships between applied theatre and health. By pausing over the enormity and diversity of the work taking place in this field this conference seeks to excavate the key aspects of this nascent area of practice and research. The 2-day event will comprise keynote speakers, academic papers, workshops, and performances. As such the panel invite contributions from academics, health professionals and performance practitioners alike to contribute to this dynamic event. Proposals are encouraged, but not limited to, the following areas:


  • How far can applied theatre be helpfully understood as a performance intervention in health settings? And what does this idea actually mean?
  • What are the politics of applied theatre work in government funded health care settings?
  • What are the ethics of applied theatre work in primary care or public and community health settings?
  • What are the objectives in applied theatre work with terminal or chronic patients, or endemic diseases?
  • How far does applied theatre work in health settings participate in promoting a performative notion of health and illness?
  • Is applied theatre’s primary responsibility to change perceptions of health and illness, to alter the individual’s lived experience of impaired health and/or to build alliances for social change? How are these principles achieved?

Further information

For any further information, please contact the conference organisers Anna Harpin ( and/or Kerrie Schaefer (

Health Acts final programme

Registration details and forms

Health Acts -- Registration form

Health Acts -- Credit card authorisation form 

On-line registration is available.