“No is not an option” – why societies should consider a relaxed performance.

“No is not an option” – why societies should consider a relaxed performance.

Relaxed performances are nothing new in the theatre world but for many amateur societies the thought of not conforming to the technical requirements of a particular script or the idea of people calling out, commenting loudly or even getting up and leaving the auditorium is taboo and should never be considered. But who are we to dictate whom should be suitable enough to enjoy a performance and why can’t the constraints of a certain lighting plot or sound effects not be altered to accommodate theatre goers who might otherwise miss out.

A relaxed performance is designed purposely for audiences who might enjoy the experience of the theatre in a more stress-free and calmer environment, including (but not limited to) those with autistic spectrum conditions, anyone with sensory and communication disorders or theatre goers with a learning disability. 

Here are a few pointers that may help or persuade your society to dedicate a performance as a “relaxed performance” for anyone who wishes to attend. It’s not as complicated as you might think.

  • When someone requests a booking for a relaxed performance date, give a clear explanation about what a relaxed performance is.

  • Provide Pre-show information describing what to expect. It is essential that everyone knows what’s happening from the outset.

  • Some societies might even promote a familiarisation visit if a guest has not been to the theatre before.

  • An introduction at the start of the show to remind the audience that it’s a relaxed performance thus giving anyone who needs to move or be noisy the freedom to do so. Audience members should also be able to leave and come back in at any point.

  • Staff and cast need to take an inclusive approach from start to finish.

  • Consideration must be given to sound and lighting levels, taking into account sensory sensitivities.

  • Prepare and inform staff  of a clear plan for how any complaints from audience members will be managed.

  • If possible, provide a quiet space outside the auditorium where people can go during the show if they need to.

Any type of theatre is suitable for a relaxed performance because people enjoy different kinds of theatre.

I  truly believe that making theatre accessible makes it better and leads to more exhilarating experiences for everyone. A show where performers, audience and location allow for unexpected outcomes, leads to each individual performance becoming unique and compelling: isn’t this what live theatre is all about?

So don’t be put off, embrace the positive and remember, “No is not an option.”