Category Archives: Relaxed Performances

Information about upcoming Relaxed Performances and/or reviews.

Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol Hippodrome

Relaxed Performance Panto Dick Whittington – Bristol Hippodrome

Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol HippodromeThe Bristol Hippodrome put on their first relaxed performance of a Panto yesterday. The Hippodrome is without a doubt one of the most magical places to experience a Panto and it was so nice that Bristol had gone to the trouble of making those with special needs be included. Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol HippodromeThe production was Dick Whittington starring Ashleigh and Pudsey (from Britain’s Got Talent fame), Ben Faulks (aka Mr Bloom), Andy Ford (with a string of credits to his name and his 22nd Panto performance at The Bristol Hippodrome), Brenda Edwards (the last woman standing in the X-Factor finals 2005), Eric Potts (best known for being Diggory Compton in Coronation Street amongst many other amazing accomplishments), Lara Denning, Ben Goodridge and Hayley Jane Goold. The Sensory Seeker was invited along in order to review how the Relaxed Performance was handled.

The Relaxed Performance of Dick Whittington at The Bristol Hippodrome

Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol HippodromeFirst of all I cannot express enough how much of a great step in acceptance and inclusion it feels that the Bristol Hippodrome put on a relaxed performance. The Bristol Hippodrome has without a doubt some of the most amazing lights, sounds, costumes, scenery and performers: With the theatre itself is a beauty all on its own. Without any additional support, it was great just knowing that The Sensory Seeker could watch the performance in his own way (getting up, spinning, making noises, clapping his hands) without the judgement (well without the guilt of it disturbing others at least). The Bristol Hippodrome opened at 12:30 – leaving 90 minutes for familiarisation of the building. In this time we could go in the Chill-out room (especially put on for the relaxed performance), visit the toilets and purchase anything we needed from the shop.

Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol HippodromeThe chill-out room had several different toys to help The Sensory Seeker. Things he could stretch, squeeze, different colours, shapes, textures – it even encouraged him to interact with other children in the room. The lighting in the room was low and soft and coloured lights were used. There were comfy sofas and bean bags with cushions for the children to sit on. Also in the room was a screen so that if they felt that they had to come out of the performance then they would not miss the show. I was also pleased to see that those in wheelchairs also had access to the performance,as they are quite a few stairs.

Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol HippodromeI believe that the levels of light were different for this performance, with mainly the stage being lit up and no lights going across where we were seated. That the overall content of the show was not changed but that sound levels were, that there was also the option to listen to an audio description commentary, and a visual story was available prior to the performance (containing detailed information/photos of the theatre and a Dick Whittington sensory synopsis – detailing all that will happen in terms of sound and light throughout the show). I cannot comment on any of this as we did not receive it. The Sensory Seeker has been to a few different productions now however and so was fine without this support.

The Pantomime of Dick Whittington at The Bristol Hippodrome

Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol HippodromeDick Whittington was everything I remember a Panto being as a child, and truly magical. It began the moment we stepped foot in the impressive theatre. It looked so grand and the children instantly wished we had balcony seats (I promised them maybe next time). In front of them was the glitteriest screen with Dick Whittington written on it – with so much detail and bling. There was humour on so many levels and it was great to see my 11 year old laughing at some of the more adult bits (such as guessing what Idle Jack would have said that rhymed with silly!) It was great family fun and none of the lines went too far. The costumes were amazing and in true Panto style The Dame (Sarah the Cook) had a fabulous wardrobe, including a fantastic underwear set!! The story itself flowed really well and it was a lovely twist on the classic.

Ashleigh and Pudsey 9I loved the way they had integrated Pudsey into the story and he indeed was a big hit with The Sensory Seeker; who I am sure is like many others with his difficulties that has a fondness for dogs. The talent was out of this World – Brenda Edwards has the voice of an angel and it was amazing to hear, Ashleigh was also a brilliant singer but the biggest shock was listening to how well Mr Bloom (Ben Faulks) could sing – sorry I mean Dick Whittington of course! The children recognising people they had seen on the television was a treat in itself.

Dick Whittington (Ben Faulks)  Tommy The Cat (Hayley Jane Goold)The choreography was amazing and the dancing flawless. One thing that always amazing me is the young people, and in this case they are referred to as the Juveniles. I am not sure if we had the Red Team or the Blue Team but they did a superb job. The only reason I could tell that they were so young is from their heights, because their performances were just as good as the rest of the cast. Their parents must be so incredibly proud that their children held their own with such talent in The Bristol Hippodrome.

Dick Whittington relaxed performance Bristol HippodromeOf course as well as the amazing use of scenery, textures and lights the added magic to this performance was the inclusion of a very clever 3D underwater scene. This was a great addition to the show and something I have never seen in Panto before. A very modern twist and a great way to demonstrate the technology at The Bristol Hippodrome. All 3D glasses were provided and the children were thrilled that they could take them home.

Conclusion of The Relaxed Performance of Dick Whittington at The Bristol Hippodrome

In terms of inclusion I will repeat again how it is very much appreciated that The Bristol Hippodrome have gone to lengths to include individuals such as The Sensory Seeker (that is those with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Sensory, learning and communication disorders and other difficulties). Apart from the things stated above it was good to see individuals with these needs invited on stage to take part with the Pantomime (I could be wrong about this as this is an assumption based on my observations). There was a good selection of glowing items to purchase, the theatre was easy to find our way around and the queue to the toilet moved very quickly.

Idle Jack (Andy Ford) and Sarah the Cook (Eric Potts)However, it was really busy. There was no real room to move. and getting up to move out of our seats meant lots of other people having to move too. This was awkward enough in the interval never mind if an individual couldn’t cope during the performance. There was no introduction of the Cast before the performance – but I guess they did not have their faces covered like in The Gruffalo. It was really busy on trying to exit The Bristol Hippodrome, I think this was further heightened by the fact that Andy Ford was in the foyer selling his DVD and photo opportunities were available. I do think this was a really nice touch and the children were excited to be able to get a picture together, but also not very well thought out for those with differing abilities that may have struggled with this scenario.

In conclusion Dick Whittington was an amazing production and I would like to thank everyone involved, especially those who helped turn it into a relaxed performance to make it more inclusive for all.

I received 4 free tickets to the Relaxed Performance and a programme in return for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own.

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Perfomance Review

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Perfomance Review

We went to see The Relaxed Performance of The Gruffalo Live at Birmingham Town Hall. Relaxed performances are open to everyone but are specifically for people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, learning difficulty, sensory processing and communication disorder. I would like to say that a lot of effort has gone into the production and ensuring that everyone was able to enjoy it. This was both before and during the performance.

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Perfomance Review

Prior to Attending The Gruffalo Relaxed Performance

Prior to attending there were videos of the town hall, a full guide to the story, visuals and information about the building (getting there and inside), photos of the cast (in and out of their costumes); detailed descriptions of the set, lighting, sounds and list of songs.

There was a visual story guide so that the child would know exactly what would be happening. There was also a visual guide with more detail for children with a higher understanding level. There was absolutely no reason that there would have been anything unexpected about the show. There was also an informal drop-in session on the Monday prior to the show so that the families could see the hall as it would be during the performance; find where they would be sitting, meet the people who would be on duty; meet the cast and ask any questions.

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Perfomance Review

Arriving at The Gruffalo Relaxed Performance

We were told that our tickets would be available a couple of hours prior to the performance. It meant that there was actually no queue when we picked ours up, and gave our Sensory Seeker an opportunity to get to know the venue, purchase a Gruffalo flag (his brother had a book) and go to the toilet.

Autism West Midlands at The Gruffalo Relaxed Performance

Near to where we collected the tickets there was also lots of extra information in regards to Autistic Spectrum disorder (who the primary audience was for). I believe this was provided by Autism West Midlands. They had details of how they help and how they are contactable – including family outreach, support/social groups, residential care, supported living, employment support and training. They also had a social network for families living with Autism called Connect (which also has an app for it). Connect allows the user to develop a social network, featuring the people and providers who give them support; gives the opportunity to find local people going through similar experiences; find and promote local activities and events; discover, rate and review local providers and services; access free autism eLearning, download information and resources. This is information has been taken from their flyer.

In fact if my child was newly diagnosed with Autism this would have been a great place to go. They provided plenty of information about the condition, how to help with it, and where to access help. I particularly liked the Guide to Visual Communication Resources leaflet – which also had a list of useful websites. There were also flyers for applying for an Autism attention card – designed for when adults and young people go out on their own and encounter the Emergency services. It will then help the police and other emergency services to make reasonable adjustments to how they respond to the card carrier, and details of anyone who needs to be contacted. There was a whole range of printouts on a variety of topics including sensory issues, siblings, getting active/play etc. The lady also said there was more available from their website.

The Gruffalo Relaxed Performance The Hall

The central area had had the seats taken out, providing a central aisle. This big open space meant that there was plenty of room if anyone need to go in or out of the performance. It also it meant that children had space to move about and dance. It was really lovely as it also meant that the children were able to go right to the front of the stage and see the characters up close. Feeling very brave when the Gruffalo came out – and then down to the floor where the children could touch him!!!! There was extra wheelchair spaces, and some children were up high on another level. The doors were left open and a chill out area was provided (with bean bags and toys). It was less formal and we were told that noise and movement was welcomed. Do what we need to do was the message.  There was low noise from the production and low light levels. The staff all had specialist training and were very good.

The Gruffalo Relaxed Performance

Prior to the performance all the cast were introduced and we were told which parts they would be playing (these had as previously been mentioned provided in the parent pack). Charlie Guest was The Narrator and Gruffalo; Will Towler was the Narrator, Fox, Snake and Owl; and Ellie Bell was the mouse.

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Performance

Also we were told about the room that we could do pretty much whatever we needed, that we could get up, make noise, come and go. They did ask if any feedback could be fed to them to help improve future performances and a questionnaire was available at the end (to either fill in there or to post back to them). We were even allowed to take as many photographs as we liked, as long as the flash was off. I think this help many children with special needs as I saw a lot of them happily snapping away.

The Gruffalo Live Relaxed Performance itself was amazing. Just the right duration, with a fantastic mixture of songs, attractive costumes, humour, action and audience participation. We were pleased to see that it was not just a reading of the (much loved) Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler book. Theatre Company Tall Stories had adapted it for the stage with its own added bits and extra twists. I think the scenery/lighting was a good balance of not being under or over stimulating and the small cast meant that it was not overwhelming.

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Perfomance Review

Relaxed Performance Improvements

The one thing I did notice is that no consideration had been taken into the differences between children’s needs. For example my son is a sensory seeker – and his needs are quite different to a sensory avoider. There was a lady who was worried about her son who needed to run up and down because the doors were open (and may wonder off or play with them). Her other concern was that he may try to get on stage. I know that all needs cannot be met, as children are so different. Maybe finding out why parents want to come to the performances and exactly how things could be made better will help though. In this case I think an enclosed space for the boy to run would have helped. Our son came in a Gruffalo outfit, which met most of his sensory needs. I liked that there were things for sale before the performance – such as Gruffalo soft toys – which could also have helped with the sensory experience. However, his costume could have upset certain children, and other children wanted to touch him (which is fine with us) but might not have been with other children.

Future Relaxed Performance

The next Relaxed Performance is “The Tiger who came to tea” – Sunday 11th January 2015 at 3pm.

The Gruffalo’s Child is being performed in London 10th December 2014 – 4th January 2015 (this is not  relaxed performance).

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Perfomance Review

I received four free tickets to see The Gruffalo Live Relaxed Performance. No other financial compensation has been given. All words and opinions are my own (except those stated from the leaflet). Thank you very much we all had an amazing time, and I was really impressed with the effort involved to make comfortable those who may have not been able to cope with the show otherwise.

gruffalo live relaxed performance

Gruffalo Live Relaxed Performance Birmingham Town Hall 24th August 2014

Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo is by far one of the best children’s stories ever written. It was one of the first bedtime stories to really grab our Sensory Seeker’s interest. This wasa lso the start of lengthening his attention span. The Gruffalo is so well written that it appeals to both adults and children. Our Sensory Seeker absolutely loved the Squash and a Squeeze Exhibition, so I just knew he would love to see The Gruffalo Live. The magic of seeing one of his favourite stories coming to life.

gruffalo live relaxed performance

Trouble is with these sorts of performances is that you never know how he will cope. Will he be over stimulated with all the sensory input, will he make too much noise, or annoy people by keep needing to go to the toilet, will the disruption in routine be too much. I know I shouldn’t but I do worry what other people think, and me and my husband would hate to think that our son’s behaviour was disrupting the performance for someone else.  I have taken our Sensory Seeker to a “Sensory Screening” at The Roses Theatre before. This meant that they cut the adverts and the lights wee low. Most importantly for me it meant that he could get out of his seat, make noises, clap his hands – do whatever he felt he needed to do and I did not feel uncomfortable. So when I discovered that there was a Relaxed Performance of The Gruffalo Live at Birmingham Town Hall this summer I knew we had to go.

gruffalo live relaxed performance

Following on from their previous Relaxed Performance of What the Ladybird Heard in January, their Relaxed Performances have been very well thought out and are specially adapted with those on the Autistic Spectrum, with learning disabilities, sensory processing or communication disorders, and those in wheelchairs in mind.

Before you go to the Relaxed Performance of The Gruffalo Live

Preparation can play a key role in how a child copes with a visit – especially if they find change difficult to handle. I know that my son is a very visual learner so I appreciate the time and thought that has gone into the little touches to help him understand where he is going, and what will happen.

 gruffalo live relaxed performance

There is a short film available, which gives a preview of the historic concert hall. This shows what it looks like, and how you can get there, including disabled parking. It answers many questions that may be asked in order to plan the visit, showing things like the seating plan, facilities for those in wheelchairs, toilets, food and the chill out zone.

Closer to the time of the show (dates to be confirmed) there were be a free familiarisation tour of Town Hall to help get to know the venue, facilities and staff ahead of the performance. I am also really impressed with the visual storyboard of the performance to help the children prepare for the performance before and during the visit. This will soon be made available online to download and by mail or email upon request.

The Gruffalo Live Relaxed Performance

During the Relaxed Performance of The Gruffalo Live

There will be small changes made to the light and sound levels, while the attitude to noise and movement in the audience is more relaxed. There are also added wheelchair spaces, in addition to the standard seating plan, a chill-out zone away from the auditorium and they will keep some of the doors open in case people need to come and go during the performance. In planning for the relaxed performance, they have consulted with individuals knowledgeable in the areas of autism and learning disabilities, and will provide specialist training for their front of house staff, and a briefing to cast members.

Town Hall, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B3 3DQ, West Midlands, United Kingdom

£12 plus transaction fee* £2.50 transaction fee, plus £1 (optional) postage, will be charged on all bookings except purchases made in person at the Town Hall or Symphony Hall Box office.

This relaxed performance is very kindly supported by the Edward and Dorothy Cadbury Trust, The Eveson Charitable Trust, The Loppylugs and Barbara Morrison Charitable Trust, and The Saintbury Trust.

A relaxed performance is also planned for The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Sunday 11 January 2015).

You may also be interested in The Gruffalo Hunt

I am receiving free tickets to see The Relaxed Performance of The Gruffalo Live. All words and opinions are my own.