Background

The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) commissioned TOD to co-produce the Covid and Me Monologues in partnership with Leeds University (led by Prof Sue Pavitt) to show how people from underserved communities have been affected by the Covid Pandemic and to underline the importance of COVID-19 research in developing treatments and vaccines for all.

Playwrights Jonathan Hall, Judith Johnson, Sarah Daniels, Farah Najib, Leanne Allen, Oladipo Agboluaje, Sudha Bhuchar participated in a series of Generator workshops that explored the barriers and enablers to involvement in research studies from the perspective of the members of the underserved communities who participated in the workshops.

Illustrator Tony Pickering was commissioned to ‘live capture’ the presentations and discussions that took place in the generator workshops.

Inspired by  the lived-in experiences of the participants, and the input of the researchers the playwrights created 10 authentic characters each one from underserved communities.

Each of the 13 monologue explores the character’s experience of living in a world which has been turned upside down by the Covid 19 pandemic, capturing  their thoughts and feelings about taking part in Covid 19 research and vaccine trials.

Several of the monologues were translated into languages other than English:

  • ‘Tie up your camel’(Asif)  Punjabi, Urdu, Bangla
  • ‘Why Me’ (Varsha) is available in Punjabi, Urdu/Hindi, Bangla
  • ‘Crossing the Line’ (Varsha) is available Punjabi
  • ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ Punjabi

“The Covid and Me monologues are powerful as you feel in a one to one conversation with the actor, as if you are sat across a table and hearing them speak.”
– Dr William van’t Hoff Chief Executive Officer at the NIHR Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre.

All the early creative stages – the generator workshops, auditioning and rehearsals were done online, using zoom. We filmed the first series of monologues at the end of the first lock down and the second series just before the beginning of the second lockdown.

Everyone involved felt that they had a real sense of purpose. We felt that what we were creating,  was a way of hitting back at the virus ,  creating art that would both inform audiences and  get them thinking about what they would do,  should they find themselves in the same situation as the characters.

These films are fictional pieces of storytelling drama funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The content of each film is an artistic interpretation based on authentic patient voices and therefore, the views expressed are not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care, Leeds University or Theatre of Debate.

About Theatre of Debate

Our work is unique – in that, there are as far as we know, no other theatre company as committed to bringing science and art together through the performing arts (and with a 30 year track record) to engage young people and disadvantaged groups in informed debates about the ethical issues. It is essential more than ever especially in the world we find ourselves living in today to create theatre that engages young people and disadvantaged groups in understanding the importance of research, how it can impact on our lives and change the world in which we live, especially in relation to pandemics, climate change and AI (Artificial intelligence).

Theatre of Debate (TOD), formerly Y Touring Theatre Company which was founded in 1989 and reconstituted as Theatre of Debate (2015). Our live theatre work predominantly takes place in schools, historically throughout the UK (from the Orkney’s to Cornwall), to date we have produced 67 tours of TOD productions reaching non faith, faith, private, rural, urban, special needs schools engaging young people 14 + through theatre and debate in informed conversations about complex and challenging scientific research.

Leading scientists and experts, including Professors Sue Pavitt, Susan Jebb, Lewis Wolpert, Steven Rose, Steven Minger, Robin Lovell Badge, Simon Wessley, Colin Blakemore and Tim Lang to name a few ,have collaborated with playwrights including Judith Johnson, Sarah Daniels, Nicola Baldwin, and Abi Bown to create our productions.

Themes our work has explored includes AI, clinical trials, pandemics, the food crisis, neuroethics, patient and public engagement in medical research, GM food , living with long term illnesses, mental illness.

In the past TOD productions have been developed in partnership, with the Wellcome Trust, Nuffield Council on Bioethics, British Heart Foundation, British Neuroscience Association, John Innes Centre, European DANA Alliance for the Brain, Association of Medical Research Charities, Department of Trade and Industry, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, University of Ulster, Royal Albert Hall Education, National Institute for Health Research, Royal National Theatre Education Department and Oxford University.