The Flexible Performer in Applied Theatre: In-hospital Interaction with Captain Starlight

02 September 2020

This paper explores how Australian non-profit organisation the Starlight Children’s Foundation employs professional performers to play the role of Captain Starlight in order to distract, entertain, and interact with children and young people in hospital. Drawing from the author’s experience working for the organisation, it will provide an overview of Starlight’s programs, before locating the Captain Starlight program within the field of Applied Theatre, and then describing how theories of clowning, improvisation, and theatrical performance are conceptualised and practised within that program. It then presents an account of a moment of performance, before arguing that the approach adopted by Captain Starlight bears much in common with the process of ‘flexible performance’ identified by Tim Fitzpatrick in the commedia dell’arte. Ultimately, this paper finds that by generating performance in this manner, Captain Starlight creates an interactive space for children and young people to exercise their agency within the hospital setting.