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relaxed performance

What is a Relaxed Performance? A Simple Guide to Accessible Theatre

Relaxed performances, also known as “relaxed performance” events, offer a unique and inclusive experience for individuals with special needs, such as autism, learning disabilities, or sensory sensitivities.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the world of relaxed performance events, how they benefit audience members, and the theatre companies that offer them.

relaxed performance

Understanding Relaxed Performances

Relaxed performances are specially tailored theatre experiences designed to accommodate individuals with autism, learning disabilities, or sensory sensitivities.

Modifications to sound, lighting, and other elements create a relaxed environment, enabling everyone to enjoy the theatre without feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

The goal of these performances is to provide a hospitable, tolerant, and inviting environment for all, using visual stories to help audience members understand the show and feel more comfortable. They are open to everyone, including:

  • those with dementia
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • sensory disorders
  • parents with young children or babies

These performances provide an inclusive atmosphere for all.

relaxed performance

Key Features of Relaxed Performances

A major aspect of relaxed performances is the modification of sound and lighting to enhance the experience for individuals with special needs.

This may include reducing loud or unexpected sound effects, avoiding bright or flashing lights such as strobe lighting, and permitting movement and noise from the audience.

Aside from these adjustments, theatres often have designated ‘chill-out’ areas for people to use if the experience becomes overwhelming.

Pre-show workshops, conducted by the cast and crew, are also common, featuring character introductions and explanations that make the experience more enjoyable and inclusive for young people and others who may benefit from a more relaxed atmosphere.

relaxed performance

Benefits for Audience Members

Audience members with special needs gain numerous benefits from attending relaxed performances. They provide a more inclusive and non-judgmental atmosphere, with modifications to sensory stimuli and a more comfortable and tranquil experience.

For example, house lights may be dimmed instead of completely dark, allowing individuals with sensory sensitivities to feel more at ease.

These performances not only cater to individuals with autism and learning difficulties but also provide advantages for those with sensory processing disorders and social communication disorders.

By adjusting sound and lighting cues and allowing the use of phones or other “fidget devices,” relaxed performances create a more comfortable environment for individuals to engage in self-regulation techniques.

relaxed performance

Theatre Companies Offering Relaxed Performances

Numerous theatre companies acknowledge the significance of incorporating relaxed performances in their productions.

Two notable examples are Mousetrap Theatre Projects and Old Vic Theatre, which both offer tailored performances to ensure a more inclusive and enjoyable experience for audience members with special needs.

Mousetrap Theatre Projects

Mousetrap Theatre Projects focuses on catering to young people up to 25 with autism or learning disabilities and their parents or carers. They arrange one or two relaxed performances yearly, contingent on available funding, for renowned West End shows like School of Rock and Wicked.

To make these performances as accessible as possible, Mousetrap Theatre Projects collaborates with venues and producers to make the necessary adjustments to sound, lighting, and atmosphere.

They also purchase the house and re-price the tickets to a range of £3 to £20, ensuring affordability and availability to those who need them.

Old Vic Theatre

The Old Vic Theatre, located in London, England, also provides relaxed performances with supportive environments and access services.

Their performances are tailored to families with one or more children with special needs, creating a relaxed atmosphere and adopting a lenient attitude towards sound and movement from the audience.

Old Vic Theatre’s relaxed performances cater to those who would benefit from a more relaxed atmosphere, such as those with Autism Spectrum Condition and anxiety.

With such performances, they ensure that their productions are accessible and enjoyable for a diverse range of audience members.

access requirements

Attending a Relaxed Performance

If you’re contemplating attending a relaxed performance, understanding a few things can optimise your experience. Preparing for your visit involves:

  • Familiarising yourself with the venue and show
  • Reviewing available resources such as visual stories or social narratives
  • Setting expectations for the performance

During the performance, you can expect a more relaxed environment with noise and movement allowed, including some loud noises.

If needed, you’ll have access to chill-out zones outside the auditorium, providing a space to relax and reduce stress levels during the performance.

Preparing for Your Visit

Before attending a relaxed performance, reviewing available resources helps to set expectations. A visual story or social narrative can provide clear and concise information about what to anticipate during the performance, assisting individuals in understanding the environment, characters, and plot.

Apart from reviewing these resources, researching the venue and the event before buying access tickets is also important.

Some venues may provide touch tours as a rehearsal for patrons, allowing them to become acquainted with the performance and feel more comfortable and prepared when they find visiting the actual event.

During the Performance

Attendees at a relaxed performance should remember that:

  • Making noise and movement are permissible and even encouraged
  • This helps create a more inclusive and supportive atmosphere for all
  • Audience members can freely express themselves without judgment

If you find the experience a bit overwhelming at any point, you can always make use of the chill-out zones provided by the venue.

These spaces offer a tranquil environment where individuals can withdraw from noise and sensory overload, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the performance at their own comfort level.

more relaxed environment

Supporting Inclusive Theatre

Organisations like Mousetrap Theatre Projects offer consultancy services for theatres and producers to bolster inclusive theatre.

Additionally, implementing accessibility measures such as wheelchair spaces and services for individuals with hearing sensitivities ensures that the arts remain open and welcoming to everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

Consultancy Services

Mousetrap Theatre Projects’ consultancy services lend expertise and guidance to theatres and producers for the organisation and execution of relaxed performances.

Their experience in organising and delivering performances, such as Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, ensures that they can help create an inclusive and supportive atmosphere for all audience members.

These services improve relaxed performances’ quality by minimising uncertainty and offering advice on accommodating individuals with sensory sensitivities or other access requirements. As a result, theatregoers can enjoy a more pleasant and comfortable experience.

Additional Accessibility Measures

Theatre accessibility enhancements like assistive listening devices or captioning systems improve comprehension of dialogue and sound effects for individuals with hearing impairments.

Similarly, sign language interpretation or audio description can provide individuals with visual impairments a more immersive and inclusive theatre experience.

Touch tours, which offer a tactile experience of the set, props, and costumes before a performance, also enhance the overall theatre experience for visually impaired attendees.

Implementing these additional accessibility measures enables theatres to foster an inclusive environment, making the arts accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

learning difficulties

Final Thoughts

Relaxed performances are a transformative approach to making theatre more inclusive and accessible for individuals with special needs.

By modifying sound, lighting, and atmosphere, and embracing a more relaxed environment, these performances break down barriers and open the doors of theatre to a wider audience.

With the support of organisations like Mousetrap Theatre Projects and Old Vic Theatre, and the implementation of additional accessibility measures, the world of theatre becomes a welcoming and enjoyable space for all.

Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions about relaxed performances? check out our FAQ below.

What does relaxed performance mean at a pantomime?

Relaxed performances at a pantomime are designed to accommodate those with learning difficulties, autism or sensory communication disorders by providing a more relaxed theatre environment.

What is a sensory relaxed performance?

A sensory relaxed performance is an adjusted theatre experience where the atmosphere of the auditorium and ‘rules’ are more laidback, designed to be ideal for people with learning disabilities or autism. The audience are encouraged to move around, vocalise, come and go and express themselves freely, while the lights remain low and the audience doors are kept open throughout the performance.

What is a relaxed opera performance?

A relaxed opera performance is one that welcomes all types of audience responses, including noise and movement, allowing for a natural reaction to the show. This laid-back attitude creates an inviting atmosphere that encourages everyone to be themselves.

What is a relaxed performance at a circus?

A relaxed performance at a circus is specifically tailored to provide a comfortable and enjoyable experience for those with autism, those who make involuntary sounds, and anyone else who would benefit from a more tranquil atmosphere. Slight modifications may be made to the show’s content without compromising its originality.

What are relaxed performances?

Relaxed performances are special theatre experiences designed to provide an inclusive and comfortable environment for those with autism, learning disabilities or sensory sensitivities by adjusting sound, lighting, and other elements.

Holly Smith

I Love Musical Theatre and made the West End World Website To Share My Experiences, Reviews & Theatre News.