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.

Orchestra of the Swan nominated for community project fund

The Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS) has made it to the final nominations for Big Lottery and ITV’s People’s Millions – in which the public help to decide which local community projects receive up to £50,000 worth of lottery funding.

OOTS, which performs in Birmingham, Bedford, Shipston, Pershore and Stratford-upon-Avon specialises in working with children and young people with learning and physical disabilities. The project which they are hoping to fund is Antony and Cleopatra – The Musical!: ‘60 minutes of spectacle and madcap humour’, helping children develop self-confidence, new skills and independence through creating a high quality piece of work with professional musicians and singers. The piece was specially written for pupils at Brays and Welcombe Hills Special Schools. A year of workshops will lead to a final performance in 2015.

Voting for Antony and Cleopatra – The Musical! Takes place on 26 November, and OOTS will be appearing on Central TV to talk about the project. The telephone number will be published in the Daily Mirror on the day. A date for the diaries of teachers, parents and supporters in the Midlands and elsewhere.