Snowman & Carol extend theatre to new audiences

Dec 12 2012 | By More

“Relaxed” performances for those excluded from theatres

Jamie MacDonald as The Boy and Remy Martyn as The Snowman. Photo Douglas Robertson

Jamie MacDonald as The Boy and Remy Martyn as The Snowman. Photo Douglas Robertson

By Thom Dibdin

The Festival Theatre is to stage a one-off “relaxed” performance of The Snowman on Friday 14, to benefit children with complex additional and behavioural needs.

And a similar performance of the National Theatre of Scotland’s award-winning A Christmas Carol is to be staged in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on Sunday 16.

Some 450 children from six Edinburgh schools have been invited to the Snowman, together with their teachers and carers. The performance on stage will take place as normal, although sound levels will be reduced.

According to the Festival City Theatres Trust “Many of these children have not had the opportunity to come to the theatre before, and certainly not as a school, due to their complex physical and behavioural needs.”

The difference in the performance will lie in the auditorium arrangements. These will include extra spaces for up to 50 wheelchairs, with ramps installed for access. Auditorium lights will remain up during the performance and breakout spaces will also be provided. As it will be a private performance, children will be able to move around and make a noise as they wish. There will be a specialised audio description service for children with sight impairments.

The FCTT added: “We believe that this performance is the first of its kind in Scotland. Relaxed performances have been pioneered south of the border by venues such as the Mayflower in Portsmouth and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, with the National Theatre now including relaxed performances as part of their access programme, and the first show of this kind in the West End took place last summer at a performance of Shrek.”

Simple adjustments

The NTS is staging a similar event on Sunday, this time working in partnership with the National Autistic Society Scotland to create a specifically autism-friendly performance of A Christmas Carol, which is being staged in a specially crafted performance space at The Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy.

Stephen Clyde as Bob Cratchit in the NTS production of A Christmas Carol. Photo © Peter Dibdin

Stephen Clyde as Bob Cratchit in the NTS production of A Christmas Carol. Photo © Peter Dibdin

The NTS has worked closely with the NAS Scotland to seek advice on how best to support people with the condition and their families. During this performance there will a reduction in the sensory intensity of the show with, minor lighting and sound adjustments as well as a familiarisation session before curtain-up. Audience members will get a tour of the set and an introduction to the cast and puppets. The audience will also be able to spend time choosing a seating arrangement that they are comfortable with.

The NTS points out that autism, a developmental disability, affects an estimated 50,000 Scots. Known as the ‘invisible disability’, people with autism can outwardly appear to be coping well, while experiencing severe challenges in communication and making sense of the world around them.

Some children with autism can experience extreme sensitivity to light and sound, and struggle with unpredictability and alterations to a regular routine. This can result in severe agitation, disorientation, and even a full ‘meltdown’. When this happens in a public place, parents attempting to calm their child can receive unhelpful comments and reactions from the public, who mistake autism for simple bad behaviour.

Dr Robert Moffat, National Director of the National Autistic Society (NAS) Scotland said, “Many of our supporters, who are people with autism and their families tell us they are keen to celebrate Christmas with fun activities, but can struggle to access mainstream entertainment venues.

“By making some simple adjustments to their performance of A Christmas Carol, the National Theatre of Scotland has given families affected by autism a brilliant opportunity to enjoy the same Christmas entertainments many people take for granted, in an atmosphere where they don’t risk being judged.”

Marianne Maxwell, Audience Development Manager at the NTS added, “We are always keen to explore new ways to welcome new audiences to our work. We are delighted to be working so closely with the National Autistic Society Scotland to premiere our first relaxed performance during our ON at Fife co-production of A Christmas Carol.”

The Snowman plays Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 13-30 December:
A Chrismas Carol is at The Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy, 7-30 December (returns only):


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