Include Arts partnered with Park Theatre and the creative team behind The Busker’s Opera to produce what was both the venue’s and the show’s first Relaxed Performance (RP) on 2nd June 2016. This high-energy show – described by The Stage as ‘A spirited new British musical that is full of great songs’ – was a perfect choice for a Relaxed Performance, offering the audience a diverse range of songs and lots of movement on stage. As specialist consultants, we were brought in to support the staff and cast through their first RP by providing: Staff Training, Advice on adapting the environment to be more accessible and a Visual Story. A Visual Story is a document which provides information about the show and the venue, in a format which is more accessible for people who have learning disabilities and, well, everyone! There were some changes made to the show for this RP but they were very few, as Include Arts’ Lucy explains,
‘RP’s are not intended to change the nature of the show but to provide access for people who would otherwise find it difficult to attend, so although we worked with the cast and crew to make small changes such as removing strobe lighting, we kept the show basically the same as for any other audience’
On the day we met staff from the venue and the company at a series of short briefings, intended to provide the most important information on what to expect from an RP, how it might affect the usual working day in the building and how best to support the needs of the audience attending. We were pleased to attract a diverse range of people to this show including people with dementia, autism, a young baby, people with anxiety issues, disabled and non-disabled patrons. All of these people actively selected the RP as a way of accessing the show in an environment that would be more suited to their needs than a regular performance.
The Front of House staff (disabled and non-disabled volunteers) were all exceptionally professional and dedicated to making this RP the best experience it could be, particularly as they knew this would be the first time at the theatre for some of the audience and we don’t want it to be their last. The atmosphere during the show was great, the small but engaged audience loved the show, with one member up dancing and clapping to every song. The cast played the show as they normally would, but the slight changes to light and sound meant that no one felt they needed to leave or became stressed and our lovely Chill-Out area was not very well-used! We received instant positive feedback; an audience member who attended the show with her adult son who is on the autism spectrum said,
‘Thank you very much for creating this afternoon’s event…my son and I loved seeing The Buskers Opera. It’s a fantastic show with a super-clever script, catchy songs and my son laughed all the way home as he’d really enjoyed himself. Theatre has been a lifeline for both myself and my son’
We were really proud of this feedback, grateful to the audience for giving the RP a go and proud to be part of the journey of increased access at Park Theatre and all theatres.
Next stop…the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Midsummer’s Night Dream Relaxed Performance in July. See you there?