CBeebies presenter Alex Winters will be in town next week when he hosts the first relaxed performance of the Theatre Royal’s pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.
Many of us in the North East join a queue at Newcastle Theatre Royal each year to experience the magic of one of the biggest and best pantomimes in the country, but this year that magic will be spread even further as the Theatre Royal puts on their first ‘Relaxed Performance’.
Relaxed Performances are specifically designed to welcome people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, learning disability or sensory and communication disorder into theatres to give those who otherwise might feel excluded the chance to experience live theatre. This is a specialist provision created to provide an opportunity for people who would otherwise find it difficult to go and see a show – for example people who make involuntary noise, or are likely to need to talk a lot, or move around. During a regular performance this can disturb the other audience members, and the show, but at a relaxed performance it’s expected that the auditorium will be noisy and a supportive atmosphere is created.
Alex Winters will host the relaxed performance, which is showing at 11am on Tuesday 14th January. Alex has been a regular on CBeebies since 2009, presenting popular shows such as Discover and Do and The Bedtime Hour. He will be engaging with the audience and introducing the characters prior to the show and following the show will host a Q&A with the cast.
Relaxed performances were originally developed specifically for young people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition and were called ‘Autism Friendly’ performances. However, as they are also suitable for people with learning disabilities and sensory and communication disorders, the more inclusive term ‘Relaxed Performance’ was adopted.
These performances have been developed over several years at a handful of theatres in the UK with the support of national charities such as the National Autistic Society and Contact A Family, plus the regular feedback and support of families, carers and adults with autism. Autism now affects around one in 100 children.
The show will have a less formal, more supportive atmosphere in order to reduce anxiety levels. Lighting and special effects will be slightly altered – including removing strobes and flashing lights and reducing very loud noises, however the content of the show will not be specifically changed so there is no worry of losing the magic of pantomime along the way!
The offering of a Relaxed Performance extends far before the show itself. The Theatre Royal will work with patrons in the lead up to the performance, ensuring they have everything they need to prepare them for their visit to the theatre. Patrons will be sent a visual story detailing what they can expect to happen on the day of the show. This will depict what they can expect on arrival at the theatre, the plot of the show, images of the performance and actors, and details of any difficult to comprehend scenes.
Angela Slater, Equalities Coordinator at Time To Change, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Newcastle Theatre Royal are taking this step towards making the theatre an experience that can be enjoyed by more and more people including those on the autistic spectrum and those who have communication, learning or sensory needs. Going to a pantomime is an experience that many children and adults look forward to and enjoy during the winter season and this relaxed and supportive session should make it possible for even more to take part.”
Pat Bolton, Participation Practitioner at Gateshead based Parent/Carer Forum, Parents in Power, said: “For children with Autism and other Leaning Disabilities attending a theatre performance can be extremely difficult. It is great that a magnificent place such as the Theatre Royal recognises this and is happy to put on a relaxed performance of Jack and the Beanstalk where children can begin to enjoy the theatre. I hope this will be a success with more to follow for the whole family to enjoy.”
This performance was made possible thanks to a sizable donation from Benfield Motor Group.
Philip Bernays, Chief Executive of Newcastle Theatre Royal, said: “We are absolutely delighted be able to welcome a new audience to the experience of live theatre with our first Relaxed Performance. We believe our pantomime is the perfect show as it provides something for everyone, young and old alike. We are working hard, alongside local charities, planning the performance to make sure that all patrons feel as comfortable as possible and experience the magic of pantomime. I would like to extend my thanks Benfield Motor Group for their kind donation, which will go a long way in helping to produce this show.”
Mark Squires, Benfield Charitable Trust, said “We were delighted support the relaxed pantomime performance and help make sure the performance could go ahead. We are a local business with family values so it’s great to see the kids enjoying themselves and taking part in this extra special event.”
Jack and the Beanstalk – Relaxed Performance appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal on Tuesday 14 January 2014. Tickets are £8.50 (a booking fee of 95p - £1.95 will apply to most tickets) and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or select your own seat and book online atwww.theatreroyal.co.uk .