IT WAS a far smaller audience than Steve Arnold is used to, but the smiles it brought made it just as rewarding.
The former Coronation Street star performed a scene from The Jungle Book for youngsters in the paediatric ward at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.
Five other cast members joined Steve, who is best-known for portraying Ashley Peacock in the soap.
He said: ‘It’s lovely to come here and see all the children.
‘It made their day a bit different to the normal and we’re all really happy to be here.’
The stage version of the The Jungle Book, based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling, will be at the Groundlings Theatre in Portsea from April 22 to April 30.
Steve is playing the role of the sinister tiger Shere Khan.
He said: ‘It’s a play for all ages.
‘I think that was the good thing about Kipling.
‘He didn’t actually write it for children and, although it became a children’s book afterwards, lots of adults read it too.’
It’s lovely to come here today and see all the children.Steve Arnold
Among the audience was four-year-old Isabelle Emm of Fareham, who was there with her mum Vicky.
Isabelle suffers from a kidney condition.
She said an actor playing Kaa, the snake, was her favourite.
‘I like the snake, because he’s slippery and slimy,’ she said.
Vicky said she was delighted the actors had come to perform.
She said: ‘It’s great for the kids and the hospital because there’s not much going on for them.
‘This gives them a bit of excitement and breaks up their day.’
Krista Ford, 36, of Gosport, was there with her two-year-old daughter Isie Ford, who has a thyroid infection.
Krista said: ‘It’s wonderful for them to come down and give the kids a chance to get away from their hospital bed.’
Another actor, Jack Tutt, 23, plays a panther.
Jack, from the Isle of Wight, said The Jungle Book would be a lot of fun.
He said: ‘It’s a timeless story and a coming-of-age story.
‘Playing an animal is a gift for anyone because it gives you the chance to be a kid again.’
The play is one of three Steve is taking part in at the Groundlings Theatre.