TD attends relaxed performance of MATILDA THE MUSICAL

Attendees of Matilda The Musical's relaxed performance

Attendees of Matilda The Musical’s relaxed performance

By Ruth McPherson

On 15 June, the Royal Shakespeare Company presented the inaugural ‘relaxed’ performance of Matilda The Musical at Cambridge Theatre, building on the programme of relaxed performances that the RSC has been running in Stratford-upon-Avon since 2013, when it was among the first to adopt and promote the concept. The National Autistic Society worked closely with the RSC on this special performance offering full access to the theatre for people with autism and learning disabilities.

The performance provided a relaxed environment, with elements of the production adapted to reduce anxiety or stress. Lighting and sound levels were adjusted to soften their impact and there was a relaxed attitude to noise and moving around the auditorium during the performance.  Designated ‘chill-out’ areas were provided outside the auditorium with soft seating and activities for people to use if being in the auditorium became overwhelming for them. All audience members were also sent a visual story to help them familiarise themselves with the plot, characters and the setting before they arrived at the theatre.

Tickets for the show were offered at the reduced rate of £20 and it was a sell-out performance. Catherine Mallyon, executive director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said ‘Relaxed performances are a fantastic way of offering a warm and inclusive welcome to those families, giving them the chance to experience high quality, live theatre, often for the first time. We are delighted to be part of the growing number of theatres across the UK helping to make relaxed performances a standard feature of British theatre-going.’

The cast of Matilda The Musical. (Credit: Manuel Harlan)

The cast of Matilda The Musical (Credit: Manuel Harlan)

Several other major London shows have also presented successful ‘relaxed’ performances recently, including The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Romeo and Juliet, The Elephantom, Mamma Mia! and The Lion King.  The National Theatre has recently announced that they will be putting on a relaxed performance of War Horse in September.

Hammersmith Lyric begins work on training facilities

The Lyric Hammersmith is undergoing a £16.5million redevelopment after six years of raising funds for the project. The renovations will turn the West London venue into the country’s first teaching theatre
by 2014.

A two-storey extension to the existing venue will provide extra rooms to offer educational sessions for students from actors and
directors. In addition, there will also be facilities for dance, drama, wardrobe and prop departments and a TV and film studio.
The Lyric’s executive director Jessica Hepburn said: ‘This is a unique project and the largest cultural development of its kind to take place in West London for decades. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed their vision and support to the project and we’re delighted to be putting culture and young people at the heart of the regeneration of Hammersmith and Fulham.’

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has donated £3million towards the Lyric’s redevelopment project. Council leader Nicholas Botterill
said: ‘The Lyric is already far more than a theatre and this major regeneration project will not only help to inspire generations of young
people, but also secure this wonderful institution’s place at the heart of the borough’s cultural community for years to come.’

The Lyric’s website has a donation page, where visitors can provide the redeveloped building with much-needed furnishings – everything from a digital camera to a kettle is available to purchase for the
theatre’s new facilities.

For more information about donating to The Lyric, visit www.lyric.co.uk/changing-landscapes-changing-lives/donate.

This story is featured in the latest issue of TD, find out how to subscribe or buy a digital copy of Teaching Drama Spring 1

Internship fund launched by Arts Council

Arts Council England (ACE) has launched a new initiative to support unpaid internships in the arts sector. The Creative Employment Programme will see funding of up to £15million provide financial support to unemployed 16-25 year olds seeking work experience in the arts sector.

This news follows ACE’s discussions with arts organisations concerning their guidelines for hiring unpaid interns. The Old Vic and Unicorn Theatre both suspended their internship schemes following consultations with ACE.

ACE’s Creative Employment Programme outline claims that the money will help fund ‘6,500 new apprenticeships and paid internships across the arts and cultural sector.’ The fund will be paid out to organisations who apply to help subsidise the cost of recruiting interns. The programme is scheduled to start in early 2013, and will run until March 2015.

Executive director Andrea Stark described the scheme as a ‘fantastic and vital development for young people interested in working in arts and culture.’

Stark went on to say: ‘If young people cannot gain entry into the sector workforce we risk losing a generation of talent, which would potentially have an adverse impact on the art that is produced, distributed and attended by the wider population. This programme gives young people the opportunity to gain skills and experience that potential employers will value, removes the barrier of lack of paid work experience, and helps boost the start of their career in the sector’

For more information, visit www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/arts-council-news/creative-employment-programme-launch.