Relaxed Performances: Making a real difference for people with disabilities

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We’re currently working with Autism West Midlands to help provide audiences with the best possible experience of live theatre during our second relaxed performance of pantomime.

Here we invite  guest blogger Julia Begley,  Digital Community Executive at Autism West Midlands to blog about how relaxed performances in theatres and venues make a difference.

It is an exciting time for venues and visitors alike. For many families, a trip to the theatre is a yearly tradition full of fun and shared enjoyment.

Images from last year's relaxed performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Image from last year’s relaxed performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

While this is a time of excited anticipation for some families, for others going to the theatre may feel challenging. People with disabilities can sometimes feel excluded from arts venues because of fears that their needs may not be understood. Many families tell us of the worry they feel that their children’s actions will attract unkind attention. Some autistic people find visiting the theatre too overwhelming and so they do not feel able to access this valuable experience.

But relaxed performances are making a real difference to this. Relaxed performances offer reduced lighting and sound, shortened run time, visual prompts – including signs around the building, Makaton and written descriptions alongside the performance – and chill out zones where people can go to relax if they start to feel overwhelmed. These performances offer a unique chance for people with disabilities to come to the theatre, experience the fun of a performance and feel welcomed into their community:

“It was so nice to share an experience that people take for granted at Christmas – thank you.” – Parent

Paul Zerdin and guests on stage - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!

Paul Zerdin and guests on stage – from last year’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Once the relaxed performance is over, theatres can capitalise on their achievements and show themselves to be welcoming to all people with disabilities. It can be a fantastic way to introduce people to the theatre and all it has to offer. Relaxed productions can act as a stepping-stone to give people the confidence to come to other performances, including those in the standard run.

Autism West Midlands are delighted to see the progress that is being made in this field and the way that people with disabilities are being taken seriously as customers and patrons of theatres and venues. We look forward to a sustainable future for accessible performance, and our role in supporting that.

Julia Begley is co-author of Show Time: A guide to creating amazing relaxed performances for people with autism.

Jack and the Beanstalk. Birmingham Hippodrome. 18th December 2014.

The lead cast of this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk

The relaxed performance of Jack and the Beanstalk stars Jane McDonald, Duncan James, Chris Gascoyne, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin and Matt Slack and takes place on Thursday 29 January at 1pm.  Call 0844 338 5000 for tickets.

For more information on Access performances at Birmingham Hippodrome click here

 

 

Jack and the Beanstalk – A Media Review Round-Up

With just over 4 weeks of its 6 week run to go, Jack and the Beanstalk, the UK’s biggest pantomime, is currently playing to packed houses at Birmingham Hippodrome. We know the audiences are loving the production from many wonderful comments we’ve received about the show, its stellar cast, the scenery and special effects, but what do the media think? Here’s just a few media quotes from the many reviews for you to cast your eyes over.

Over 100 members of the national and regional press, from across broadcast, print and online media, attended Jack and the Beanstalk’s official press night on Monday 22 December. A week later and the reviews are still coming in.

The Stage, the theatre industry’s main publication, gave the production 5 stars and saidPantomime doesn’t get much better than this all-star show, which takes giant steps forward in production values.”

Simon Sladen for The British Theatre Guide touched on Birmingham Hippodrome’s mission to reach new audiences through its many presentations as he said the show embraces its variety roots and demonstrates how pantomime can act as amber, locking in the past, keeping it fresh and presenting it to audiences anew.” He finished A Brummie Beanstalk full of magic, the Hippodrome safely retains its crown as Britain’s biggest panto”.

Another 5 star review came from Roz Laws for the Birmingham Mail, she said Hippo’s panto is bigger and better than ever … oh yes it is! Roz, a huge supporter of Birmingham Hippodrome added last year’s record-breaking Hippodrome pantomime was a corker, setting the bar high for Britain’s biggest production. But I reckon this year is even better. It’s a joy from start to finish or, as Cilla might put it, a lorra lorra laughs.

The Birmingham Post agreed with its sister paper and said When people pour out of the Hippo chattering excitedly and quite obviously well pleased, it’s a sure sign the panto has come off with a bang.”

Kyle Pedley’s review is published in 8 newspapers across the Midlands Newsquest Media Group. His comments picked up on the ‘old’ and ‘new’ aspects of the production in what he called a ‘traditional’ panto. He added Jack and the Beanstalk, invigorates the formula with a resplendent, pitch-perfect cast, a host of dazzling technical innovations and sky-high production values and an all-round pantomime extravaganza of truly impressive proportions.” Kyle finished his ***** review by saying Jack and the Beanstalk is an absolute must-see for all panto enthusiasts, and the one-stop ticket for all-round family entertainment and side-splitting fun in the Midlands this Christmas and New Year.”

Many more reviews appeared via online publications including ‘10 out of 10’ from Alison Brinksworth for Weekend Notes who said Birmingham Hippodrome panto seems to get bigger and better every year, but this season’s offering of Jack and the Beanstalk is the best yet. Jack and the Beanstalk reaches for new heightssaid Polaroids and Polar Bears.

The Arts Desk headlined their review with Home of UK’s biggest pantomime delivers again”  it seems many members of the press and our loyal audiences would agree!

And in the The Times today (5 Jan) Dominic Maxwell,  who has reviewed many a pantomime, gave it a massive thumbs up by saying “Is January too late to be seeing a pantomime?  Blimey, not when they’re as big, brash, bawdy and brilliant as this one.”

Thank you for all your positive reviews of Jack and the Beanstalk. We look forward to welcoming you to Birmingham Hippodrome again soon. Happy 2015 to you all!

Jack and the Beanstalk press night at Birmingham Hippodrome – reviews are in!!

Jack and the Beanstalk. Birmingham Hippodrome. 18th December 2014.We held the official press night for Jack and the Beanstalk last night (22 Dec).  Taking place in one of our dance studios it was attended by over 100 media and guests who came from all over the region.   Radio presenters from  BBC Radio WM, FREE Radio and Heart FM rubbed shoulders with national writers and journalists from Express and Star, Post and Mail and many more.  Regional bloggers came in force and singer Toyah Wilcox was also spotted.

Here’s a selection of some of the reviews just coming in

Birmingham Mail   5* review

British Theatre Guide  Hippodrome safely retains its crown as Britain’s biggest panto

Woman and County  Jack and the Beanstalk has it all and more, in spades

Keep a look out in the press for more reviews over the coming days.

Our blog will be taking a rest over the Festive and New Year season.  So, may we take this opportunity to say a big thank you for reading over 2014 and wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.   We’ll be back in 2015 with more news from behind the scenes.

If you want to know what’s coming up in 2015 click here to view our full season.

#brumpanto