In the first ever relaxed performance by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, John Payne (Callibot) explained to the audience that it is okay to “clap when you want and if you need to leave and take a break, that’s fine too.” He was accompanied by an interpreter and also advised that “there is a sensory room in the foyer if you need a longer break.” There were colouring pencils outside for the children and it felt like a true environment of inclusivity.
Relaxed performances began in England in 2010 at West Yorkshire Playhouse after a year of research. The idea of a relaxed performance is that anyone can attend and enjoy the show. A variety of adaptations are made to suit a wide range of audience members. Adaptations include lowering the sound, keeping the lighting similar and warning the audience of “the bangs” (Pyrotechnics.)
As a 28 year old with Asperger Syndrome who is used to traditional theatre styles and had never attended a relaxed performance before, I found the idea encouraging and innovative. It was useful to be told what was going to happen and the view of the stage was fantastic. The only downside of the experience was that allowing the audience to make noise and allowing people to move around was distracting for me and I felt that my attention was taken away from the action. Perhaps that would not have happened if it we had attended a relaxed performance in the evening instead.
The beautiful costumes and set design, the talented dancers whose movements were choreographed by Marius Pepito, plus a live orchestra playing Tchaikovsky’s recognisable music (some from the Disney version of the story), created a truly enjoyable experience for myself and my creative enabler Grace Smith. Grace described the show as being ‘a beautiful story told with elegant dancing, enchanting music and glitter.’
So get yourselves down to the Birmingham Hippodrome for a truly enchanting experience.
Add together a handsome prince, a sleeping lady, a wicked Queen to boo at, inclusivity and relaxation, and you have the relaxed performance of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ by the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Grace Smith and Madeleine Levy
(Photo credit Bill Cooper)