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Evaluation of 'The Messenger'

To evaluate the impact the play The Messenger might have on changing attitudes to organ donation and willingness to become an organ donor. 

UK based Limbik Theatre Company devised and performed a new play that addresses the issue of organ donation for transplantation.

The play concentrates on the fate of a particular individual who dies and the difficulty that the family has in determining whether or not they should agree to allow his organs to be donated and transplanted. Limbik Theatre Company believed that the performance could change audience members’ attitudes to organ donation and increase their willingness to donate.

Limbik approached Professor Penney Lewis, a leading legal expert on organ donation at King's, and Professor Bronwyn Parry, a leading social scientific expert on organ donation at King's, to devise a way of evaluating The Messenger’s impact on audience members after watching the play. Professor Parry recruited a cohort of six undergraduate students, then undertaking the degree course Global Health and Social Medicine, to assist in the evaluation of audience responses. 


To undertake the evaluation without invoking bias, the project team devised and employed something called ‘the kinder egg’ methodology. This method involved inserting the survey, which had specifically followed social scientific protocols, and a pencil into plastic vials similar to test tubes and placing stickers on the outside of the vials reading “please open after the show”.

Prior to every performance the students disseminated the vials to audience members and once the performance had finished the students collected the completed surveys. Many audience members spent twenty minutes completing the survey. The novelty of this methodology enabled the team to secure participation rates above 90%, a percentage that is exceptionally rare. 

The findings were analysed and demonstrated that audience members who were disinclined to donate prior to the performance had indeed become more willing to do so afterwards. These findings can be used to support the extension the tour whilst also demonstrating how social science, arts organisations and performers can be bought together to effectively address some of the most pressing health issues facing society today. 

Project team

Limbik Theatre Company

Limbik take their name from the limbic system in the brain, a complex, interconnected system of nerves and networks which interpret feelings in the body. They focus on creating new theatre work that explores human stories set in epic environments, distilling these often unheard voices into works of theatre. By investigating ethical, socially engaging questions through collaborations between actors, writers, directors, and designers, as well as non-theatre makers, they aim to use theatre as a platform to encourage debate and dialogue about the world we live in.

Professor Penney Lewis

Penney Lewis joined the Dickson Poon School of Law and Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King's in 1995. She became Reader in Law in 2005, and Professor of Law in 2007. She is the author of a number of articles on assisted dying (euthanasia and assisted suicide) and her monograph entitled Assisted Dying and Legal Change was published in 2007 by Oxford University Press.

Professor Bronwyn Parry

Bronwyn Parry joined King's in 2012 and currently acts as Chair in Social Science Health and Medicine. She maintains a strong commitment to promoting the visual arts as a medium for communicating complex ethical issues in science to a wider public, and in 2011 she mounted a ground breaking interactive exhibition Mind Over Matter with the artist Ania Dabrowska which explored attitudes to memory loss and brain donation for dementia research.

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