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Alicia Britt and Jon M Armstrong in the GKT School of Medical Education

Alicia Britt and Jon M Armstrong are artists-in-residence at King’s College London. Working in collaboration with Dr Alex Mermikides, D'Oyly Carte Senior Lecturer in Arts and Health, Alicia and Jon will be developing a project exploring the use of performance magic and puppetry in teaching human skills and the human body to biomedical and medical students.

Drama of Dissection

How might theatre and performance enhance Anatomy education? 

This collaboration supports puppeteer Alicia Britt and magician Jon M Armstrong to work with academics in the FoLSM, to design and deliver educational experiences for medical and bioengineering students. The premise is that puppetry and performance magic offer a surprising but valid complement to teaching and learning in Anatomy. Theatre can be used to teach ‘human skills’ required of future doctors and scientists, including empathy for patients and communication with the public. This project will explore how stagecraft might support these and other learning aims.

Alicia and Jon will collaborate with Alex and other artists to make a performance for medical students, designed to prompt reflection on how cadaveric dissection impacts the formation of professional identity. In addition, Alicia and Jon will explore how their respective stagecrafts might also support technical skills related to anatomy and dissection, such as manual dexterity and understanding of complex forms, testing these findings in workshops with bioengineering students.  

Overall, the project seeks to extend understanding of how theatre – and especially those under-explored crafts of puppetry and magic – might contribute to the education of future doctors and scientists.

Project team

Dr Alex Mermikides is the D'Oyly Carte Chair in Medical School, charged with developing innovative arts-based educational experiences for medical students. Her research explores contemporary performance in relation to medicine. As well as publishing on this subject, she devises performances about medical experience with her theatre company, Chimera.

Alicia Britt is a puppeteer, puppetry designer and a director for theatre, recorded media and live events. Graduating from Curious School of Puppetry in 2017, Alicia has performed for Disney’s Marvel and co-founded Loaded Object Theatre Company. She currently holds a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship.

Jon M Armstrong is an interdisciplinary artist working across light, space and magic. He has made work all over the world, with locations including a Victorian Warehouse, a subterranean prison, the Museum of London, a disused coach station, the sub-stage of a Victorian theatre, a psychology lab and deep within Tower Bridge. He has designed for traditional, immersive and site-specific theatre and for corporate clients. He is an authority on magic and light and has presented at the Wellcome Trust, Natural History Museum, Chicago Magic Lounge and the Magic Circle. His latest commission is a piece of light art for the I Light U Festival, Utrecht, in Jan 2023.

The project team at King’s also includes:
Dr Tanya Shaw, Head of Anatomy
Dr Mandeep Gill-Sagoo, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy
Kirsty Massetti, Chief Technician of Dissecting Room
Leigh Wilson, Public Engagement Manager at Centre for Developmental Neurobiology 
Richard Wingate, Professor of Developmental Neurobiology
Deborah Bruce, Senior Lecturer in Medical Education
Bernadette O’Neill, Head of Clinical Communication at GKT School of Medical Education
Javier Esteves-Cores, Student Investigator
Cristina Ramirez-Piriz, Student Investigator

Other project team members include: 
Philippa Hambly, performer and former nurse
Bex Law, dramaturg and former doctor
Matthew Urmenyi, sound designer
Dr Gianna Bouchard, theatre researcher (University of Birmingham) 

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