Who we are and what we do


‘Incredibly moving…  ’ Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer, England

‘Really powerful..’ Ann Chivers, Chief Executive, British Institute of Learning Disability

Very thought-provoking’ Lisa Molloy, Disability Partnership


Operating Theatre was founded some 20 years ago by Dr. Dominic Slowie, Carol Clewlow and Julia Darling. The original idea came from Dominic Slowie, a GP and, at the time, a lecturer at the Newcastle University Medical School. A play Eating the Elephant about cancer by playwright Julia Darling — herself suffering from cancer at the time — convinced him that theatre could have a serious part to play as a tool in medical education, in particular in the field of patient communication, which he taught along with medical sociology at the Medical School.

By chance Julia Darling had a writing residency at Newcastle University. He approached her with the idea, along with novelist Carol Clewlow who was a writer in residence at the Medical School at the time. A series of exploratory workshops were held with health professionals, a commission for a play followed and Operating Theatre was born.

We use highly experienced performers sensitive to the importance and impact of the issues we deal with in our work. Our plays are thoroughly researched and the ability to engage with the characters through our ‘hotseating’ sessions after the performance adds enormous value to the experience. Hotseating is the opportunity to speak to the characters in the piece in role and delve further into the reasons for their behaviour and attitudes. They won’t hold back and we expect our audiences to use the opportunity to find out as much as they can about them. This makes for a lively and informative session.

We have written original drama for performance and film that covers issues such as:

Obesity, Anorexia Nervosa, Alcoholism, Medical Error, The Winterbourne View Scandal, Terminal Illness and Patient Safety.

Our work can be used on its own, as a way to begin an organisation-wide initiative or targeted to smaller, more specialised, groups. We often work with a healthy mix of health care professionals and interested members of the public, patient representatives and people who are actively seeking to improve the lot of those who receive healthcare and those who dedicate themselves to providing it.

All of our work is made in collaboration with our clients and meticulously researched with the support of our Clinical Advisor, Dr.John Spencer, Emeritus Professor Newcastle University as well as our Trustees.