Stories for young people

The Owl


Mmm, a whole mouse for tea! Most owls would be delighted but poor Barley the barn owl is afraid of mice and often goes hungry. Being scared of a mouse is the last thing that an owl needs, but help comes from a most unexpected friend.

In this solo show Paul Bradley is composer, narrator, singer, actor and musician; weaving Barley’s story with the help of his original musical settings of ‘The Tyger’, ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and other classic poems.

Performed by Paul Bradley

Written and Directed by Elspeth Penny

Developed in association with Bristol Ferment at Bristol Old Vic. Also performed at St. George’s Brandon Hill, Bristol to full houses and festivals around the UK. The shows were accompanied by a dance workshop where children moved their way through Stephenson’s ‘Where go the boats’ and other poems.

“It was a truly lovely show by truly lovely people, thank you again for bringing it to St George’s and our young audiences.  I put your CD on when we got home, and my daughter spent a further blissful half hour or so dancing and singing along.” St George’s.


Arts and Health medical humanities Our Projects

Silva Lining’s Care Plan

Watch the trailer: Silva Lining’s Care Plan trailer 

Our recent work includes a previously ACE-funded project: ‘Silva Lining’s Care Plan’; we held rehearsed script readings in Bristol and Nottingham; live cello, comedic and puppetry elements. “A wonderful and moving exploration of the complex relationship between carer and cared for. Both heart-rending and laugh-out-loud.” Alex Coulter, Director, Arts and Health South West.

Now even more highly topical, Silva Lining’s Care Plan’ is a high- quality play informed by the personal experience of carers of people with dementia that questions what it means to be human and to care.We have been working to convert this to become an episodic podcast play, with additional interview material, in order to find new ways to reach carers.

Silva Lining’s Care Plan is a wonderful and moving exploration of the complex relationship between carer and cared for. Both heart-rending and laugh-out-loud, it takes you on a roller-coaster of an emotional journey through Silva Lining’s story, with many an amusing aside from her Brain.”  Alex Coulter, Director,Arts & Health South West. Chair,Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance

“Professional carers are hidden from view, yet are at the heart of support to people with disabilities or disabling illness, particularly dementia, helping them to live at home as long as possible. This play portrays the complex relationship between a carer and a woman – a retired doctor – living with dementia. Mutual respect, misunderstandings, anger, beauty, frustration, jokes and, above all, love, drew me into this poignant play with beautiful acting and even a brain puppet.” Gene Feder, Professor of primary health care Centre for Academic Primary Care Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol

“Everyone involved as Commissioners of care services or as carers should immerse themselves in this play.  You will forever see “Caring” in a new light. I was immediately captivated by the scene and the setting – familiar to me as a GP. Difficulty in gaining access to the patient’s house using door codes has been part of my lived experience for many years. The conversation between Silva Lining and her carer, the profound insights and astonishing puppetry engaged me throughout. ” Dr Malcolm Rigler FRSPH, Health Ambassador at:

Our play Silva Lining’s Care Plan was featured in Care and Cure magazine:…/wi…/tandem-arts-and-dementia

Was super to meet with Phillip Ball and have a thrilling conversation about neuroscience, mini brains and his upcoming book. Philip’s article about his work with spawned a whole character in our play Silva Lining’s Care Plan – and that is Brain. Hoping to continue conversations and also find out more about this fantastic recent Wellcome Trust project, as Silva develops into its next phase.

September 2018

Our tour to Nottingham was a big success, it went smoothly, with three performances, one at TANdem Conference and two at The Contemporary in central Nottingham. We had some great feedback, and lots of pointers of where to go next. We were also featured on Notts TV and BBC One – East Midlands Today news at 6.30/10.30pm and on iPlayer. Great to raise awareness about carers and dementia! Catch the cast of “Silva Lining’s care plan” written and directed by Elspeth Penny, with Angie Belcher Pameli Benham Sarah Moody and Isobel Ripley alongside Prof.Justine Schneider as they shed light on #dementiacare research:

Early reviews – summer 2018

We were really pleased with our performance in July 2018 at Puppet Place, Silva Lining’s Care Plan 5th July 2018, lots of great reactions.  It reinforced my belief that the most important issue and theme of our time is what it is to care. “If we are not to turn into robots, if we are to retain our humanness, then we urgently need to understand what makes us human. We KNOW that caring is powerful, precisely BECAUSE care gets marginalized, silenced, bullied off the agenda. But carers are the silent majority. That’s why this play is vital.” Dr Ingrid Wassenaar.


“This play must be watched/shared with carers old and new and care agencies. Good to see a positive care/relationship and the importance of getting it right. Very powerful. I was completely engaged for the whole piece”

“Moving, amusing”

“I thought the play was excellent, I enjoyed every minute, ‘felt the emotion’.

‘We are taken on a very rich journey’.

‘Changed stereotypes’

‘Respect for what the old person carries within’

‘Loved that you weren’t sure of who is looking after who’

‘Enjoyed the quirkiness, fantasy element, music and effects’

‘A highlight was the mix of real and miraculous, people and puppet, symbols, sounds and songs

‘High class script and acting’

‘A tour de force’

‘Playful, challenging, stirring, surreal, magical, funny!’

‘Engaging, informative, humorous, worrying, thought-provoking.’

Arts and Health medical humanities Our Projects

Bring Research to Life

Writing and performing fictional scripts, based on research, helps take ideas and complex concepts to a public audience.

News off the press for March 2020… our play ‘Out Like Fudge’ will be translated and performed in Denmark in November 2020.

Out Like Fudge is a short play/vignette, which was shown at a nephrology (kidney) conference at Bristol Wills building last December. In the audience was Jeanette Finderup, Klinisk Sygeplejespecialist & Ph.d. Jeanette liked it and is having it translated for her conference.

Described as ‘Hard hitting’, by another conference attendee, ‘Out Like Fudge’ is one of two short plays Elspeth wrote for clinician and Phd candidate Barny Hole in Autumn 2019, based on kidney patients. Much of it is verbatim, as it’s based on spoken interviews that Barny recorded and transcribed, as part of his PhD. The story features Fudge, a pet who died quite suddenly: our character Jo would like to leave the earth in a similar way.

The play will be on the 6th November in the afternoon – Barny and Elspeth hope to be there to introduce it. The play will be called: Ikke mere udenomsnak.

Conference organiser Jeanette Finderup says: “We were not able to make a direct translation, but the Danish title indicate, that now we do not talk around the subject anymore.”

If Covid-19 travel permissions and clinical work commitments allow for it, Elspeth will do a short introduction of the play and Barny will present a lecture for one hour with the title: Hvad må det koste at leve længere for en patient i dialyse? “The title says something like: How much will a patient in dialysis pay to live longer?”

Rehearsing Out Life Fudge in the Wills Building, Bristol: Chris, Jo and Bede.

The project started when Clinician Barny Hole of Bristol University had a hunch that drama might be a good approach to help with public engagement around his PhD subject. Elspeth was recommended to Barny on the grapevine, and asked her to write and direct the work. In the early meetings, we agreed that humour was important, even through the humour might be dark. Also we wanted to stay true to the people in the interviews, whilst protecting their identities and fictionalising elements to make it into an easier story to follow.

We’ve performed it on two occasions, enabling both a PPI group, then clinicians and conference delegates at #dialysisbalance to reflect, and consider dilemmas about medical procedures from the point of view of a patient. Thanks to Jo, Karen, @ChrisPirie and Bede for their sensitive script-reading skills #dialysisbalance #bringresearchtolife #elizabethbackwellinstitute funded.

Feedback after December dialysis conference:

“I thought it was very well done, and I liked that the actors spoke the words from interviews – it was a clever idea”

“The words were impactful and very sad”

“I do like different ways of communicating messages this certainly got across some key points form real life experiences”

“The revelation that all the words came from real people facing ESKD decisions was powerful”

“very involved. Has left a significant mark on me as to how many patients must feel when they are told dialysis is required”

“So powerful”

“Slightly shocked by some of the language – it is hard-hitting but a really good way of getting insight through drama”

“I’m a GP… it was thought provoking, challenging of traditional approaches both in care but also conference content. I really valued that”