The Tuesday Group was commissioned as part of a European Commission funded project, European Palliative Care: Ethics and Communication, directed by BSMS's Professor of Clinical and Biomedical Ethics, Bobbie Farsides, when she was based at King's College London.
One aim of the project was to explore the potential benefits for cancer patients of openness around diagnosis and prognosis, especially when their disease became incurable. One of the project partners was Dame Barbara Monroe, Chief Executive at St Christopher's Hospice London. St Christopher's had kept reports of meetings held over a period of ten years at their Day Centre's patient support group. The notes summarised the conversations of groups of terminally ill patients convened by a hospice social worker. After consulting her colleagues and ensuring that participants had consented to the notes being shared, Barbara offered them to the project.
The Tuesday Group grew out of discussions of what could ethically be done with this unique and valuable resource. It was felt that pure academic analysis was not feasible for methodological reasons and concerns about anonymity/confidentiality. However, it was also felt to be important that the voices revealed by the notes be heard by a broader audience than that with an academic interest in palliative care. Hence the decision was made to commission a play.
In consultation with Bobbie, Barbara and the hospice's social work team, Sue Eckstein distilled the transcripts into eight characters and one convenor, each of whom had their own distinct personalities, life stories and thoughts. The resulting play gave unique access to the conversations of people united only by their shared experience of life limiting illness and has an authenticity that comes from being inspired by the conversations of real patients.
The play was performed to great acclaim as a rehearsed reading in 2002 as part of King's College London's Art of Dying festival with a cast of professional actors including Gina McKee, Phyllida Law and Amanda Mealing.
This production by BSMS Theatre, directed by Tim Jackson and acted by medical students, was the first full production of the play.