Clown doc­tors dis­pense the best medicine

Central Leader - - NEWS - By KATASHA MCCUL­LOUGH

A red nose, a silly hat and some im­prov skills are all Ruth Dud­ding needs to bring smiles to the faces of sick chil­dren.

The ac­tress vis­its Star­ship hos­pi­tal once a week as her al­ter ego Dr Priscilla Pick-Me-Up, a clown doc­tor.

Clown doc­tors were in­vented in Bel­gium and un­dergo spe­cific train­ing, learn­ing hos­pi­tal pro­to­cols and ba­sic psy­chol­ogy and phys­i­ol­ogy.

Ms Dud­ding says you need to be em­pa­thetic and be able to read a sit­u­a­tion.

‘‘We’re in very tense sit­u­a­tions some­times, where chil­dren are in a lot of pain. There could be a lot of ac­tiv­ity that is go­ing on around the bed of a child which is alarm­ing to them. You learn to deal with it.’’

The clown doc­tors work in pairs and visit ev­ery­one from 10-weekold ba­bies up to 15-year-olds.

Ms Dud­ding says the work im­mensely re­ward­ing.

‘‘It’s my job and I love it and I love the chil­dren. It’s about ris­ing above it for them and tak­ing them to a dif­fer­ent place away from their bore­dom or their pain or their anx­i­ety.’’

Ms Dud­ding has been work­ing a dou­ble role for the Clown Doc­tors New Zealand Char­i­ta­ble Trust.

Her first thought when she heard about clown doc­tors was not to be one but to make a doc­u­men­tary about them.

She filmed the first part of the au­di­tion work­shop be­fore join­ing in her­self.

She was of­fered a job as a clown doc­tor and the op­por­tu­nity to keep film­ing.

Ms Dud­ding now has 17 hours of

is footage which she hopes to take some time off to edit.

She has been jug­gling her clown doc­tor work with re­hearsals for up­com­ing play Mo­tel.

Ms Dud­ding will hang up her red nose in mid-Au­gust to play Janet in the drama, a ‘‘rea­son­ably well­heeled’’ woman who sus­pects her hus­band of be­ing un­faith­ful and de­cides to in­ves­ti­gate.

In her prepa­ra­tion for the role Ms Dud­ding spoke to pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor Ju­lia Hart­ley Moore, who spe­cialises in in­fi­delity cases.

The ac­tor who plays the mo­tel owner will spend a week work­ing in a real mo­tel and an­other whose char­ac­ter has can­cer chat­ted to a doc­tor to en­sure her por­trayal is re­al­is­tic.

Ms Dud­ding says the play is ‘‘di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed’’ to be be­ing a clown doc­tor.

She will play the same char­ac­ter each night whereas as a clown doc­tor she could be do­ing any­thing from blow­ing bub­bles or singing to ba­bies to per­form­ing a whole im­pro­vised scene.

‘‘It re­ally keeps your cre­ativ­ity and act­ing skills honed,’’ Ms Dud­ding says.

The Clown Doc­tors New Zealand Char­i­ta­ble Trust wants to reach more wards and visit the el­derly as well, but needs more fund­ing.

The clown doc­tors are paid through do­na­tions to the trust.

Mo­tel is on at 8pm un­til Au­gust 24 at the Base­ment Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, in the cen­tral city.

There is a 2pm mati­nee on Au­gust 24 and no shows on Sun­days.

Tick­ets are $30 for adults and $25 for se­niors and stu­dents from iticket.co.nz.

Clown­ing around: Ruth Dud­ding, right, as Dr Priscilla Pick-Me-Up and Zack McCracken as Dr Cracker at Star­ship hos­pi­tal.

Multi-tal­ented: Ac­tress Ruth Dud­ding at home.

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