Autism is a spectrum condition so can affect sufferers in different ways. Therefore the play was styled as a “relaxed” performance, without sporadic lighting, unexpected music, or things that could potentially distress any sufferers.
The first instance of these ‘relaxed’ performances was in New York when the Theatre Development Fund launched a programme in 2011 called Autism Theatre Initiative. This is part of the Theatre Development Fund’s Theatre Accessibility Programs, which are aimed at increasing access to the theatre. The Autism Theatre Initiative aim to make going to the theatre a pleasant experience for both sufferers of Autism and their families. The trend for inclusion crossed the pond and in 2013 the Oxford Playhouse performed a ‘relaxed’ version of Spot’s Birthday Party. Nonetheless, Saturday’s performance was the most renowned show to perform a ‘relaxed’ version in England to date.
The performers on the 22nd June where well aware a trip to the theatre is often stressful for sufferers and their families. Sensory issues due to bright lights, dramatic sounds and different smells can make it very difficult for sufferers to enjoy the experience. However, Saturday’s performance kept the house lights on to make the atmosphere pleasant and people were warned when to expect noise to reduce surprise. There was also a room where people could go if they felt unsettled during the performance. London’s Apollo Theatre were so accommodating that people were even able to take part in a walk around the theatre before the performance to make sure they felt comfortable. The lengths that the company went to in order to include people with varying disorders or learning disabilities showed the extent to which theatre companies want everyone to have a positive theatre experience.
If you would like to read more advice about attending the theatre if you or a companion suffers from Autism please click here.