By Tom Zillich
November 15, 2017
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‘Relaxed performance’ of panto a first for Surrey, theatre company says
Special night Dec. 21 for staging of ‘Sinbad, the Pirate and the Dinosaur’
SURREY — A so-called “relaxed” performance of a theatre production comes to Surrey Arts Centre next month when Royal Canadian Theatre Company stages its seasonal panto there.
The show on Thursday, Dec. 21 is designed for those with intellectual, learning and other sensory and communication disorders, according to Ellie King, who wrote Sinbad, the Pirate and the Dinosaur and is the Surrey-based company’s managing artistic director.
King, a Langley resident, says it’s sometimes difficult to strike a balance between making live theatre accessible to all, and yet still be sensitive to the issue of potentially disturbing other audience members. “This unfortunately often results in some members of our community not being able to attend live theatre,” she says. A “relaxed performance” – sometimes called “sensory friendly performances” or “extra live” performances – “is intended specifically to be sensitive to, and accepting of audience members who may benefit from a more relaxed environment, including (but not limited to) those with autistic spectrum conditions, anyone with sensory and communication disorders or learning disabled people,” according to a post on the company’s website.
That means sound and lighting cues are adjusted to be less startling or intense, she said. Exiting and entering the auditorium is allowed at any time, auditorium lights are never fully turned off, and the cast comes on stage before the performance to explain what’s about to happen. Also, audience noise, movement and even the use of phones or other “fidget devices” are tolerated.
“Since being pioneered by Polka Theatre, a children’s theatre in London, in 2009, relaxed performances have spread around Britain and to the United States, and are now arriving in Canada,” King said. “We are bringing the first ever Relaxed Performance outside of Vancouver to the Surrey Arts Centre during the run of Sinbad,” she added. “RCTC, partnering with the City of Surrey, is proud to lead the way in Surrey with this wonderful initiative and is hoping to expand the programme for their next season, 2018/19.” Surrey Arts Centre has plenty of parking and is highly wheelchair accessible, King noted.
The company describes Sinbad, the Pirate and the Dinosaur as “a rollicking adventure on the high seas with pirates, treasure, dinosaurs, the Queen of the Pirates, an annoying princess, battles and all your panto favourites. Magical, musical, full of corny old jokes – perfect family fun!”
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