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Accessible theatre: A relaxed performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Liam_AlumniLiam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,113 Pioneering
Our community intern Liam attended a relaxed performance of the play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and today he lets us know all about it. You can read more of Liam's blog at Life of a Thinker.

I love the play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. An extraordinary tale about the unique mind of Christopher Boone, I fell in love with its sheer emotiveness. So, when the opportunity came up for me to see it for a second time, of course I said yes.

However, unlike the first performance, this one was a little bit different. For the first time as a theatre-goer, I attended a relaxed performance of a play, with my good friend Connor, who has an autism diagnosis.

Ahead of the performance, I had a few questions in mind. The main one being what changes to the show would there be? At the start, for example, there are a sequence of flashes. With sharp lights being a possible issue for some autistic people, seeing how they would deal with that was interesting.

accessible theatre birmingham

Luckily, I found a video online which explained some of the changes: a reduction in strobe lighting, the theatre doors remaining open throughout, and the audience lights staying on for the whole show too. If anything, most of the changes were to calm the intensity of theatre, and it worked. It certainly felt relaxed whilst also remaining powerful and emotive when it needed to be.

Another thing I noticed was a sheet of paper detailing some of the aspects of the show which may be an issue, including shouting, lighting and sound effects which audience members should be aware of. Yet another thing which helped to put the minds of audience members at ease.

All of this had us nicely prepared for the show itself. I won’t go into too much detail about it (see my first review for that), but in short, it was another emotive, raw and magical performance. I was left buzzing, even though I had seen the play already.

What was even more exciting was the question and answer session with the cast and director afterwards. With this not being something offered after the first performance I saw, I was excited to put some questions to the actors, including the importance of silence in the play (how much is too much) and memory tips – these actors have to remember some complex lines indeed! It was also great to hear the cast discuss autism, too, and their approach to the issue.

Liam and actor Sam Newton from Curious incident of the dog in the night time

Thanks, once again, must go to Sam Newton (who played Christopher) for stopping for a quick photo, as well as the rest of the cast. It was a phenomenal performance. A big thank you as well to the Birmingham Hippodrome, who were able to make the show accessible to so many people.

Is theatre accessible to you? Have you attended altered showings to suit your impairment? What would make you want to go to the theatre?



  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,010 Disability Gamechanger
    I'm part of a group looking at accessibility at the Royal Exchange in Manchester and it's apparent accessibility is absolutely something they're very keen on but haven't quite got to grips with yet. One of the things which concerned me was the suggestion that relaxed performances can be the solution to all accessibility issues. A number of us had to explain that just isn't appropriate, albeit that there are many impairments for which it could work really well who and who have yet to be included.
  • Sam_AlumniSam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,731 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @mikehughescq I agree, I think relaxed showings are great but theyre certainly not a cover all solution for all accessibility!
    Senior online community officer
  • mossycowmossycow Member Posts: 495 Pioneering
    @LiamO_Dell Great post and such an important topic as I do believe the arts is such a massive art of being human that can prove difficult for some to access. 

    Im a wheelchair user who is hypersensitive to touch, temperature... But I'm also a music teacher and love live music, live theatre, TV, cinema. I've had some fantastic experiences with excellent customer service and feeling really comfortable. The Sage in Gateshead has some great facilities.... But it also has a box office who tell me different things regarding where I can sit.... 

    But this week, I was looking into a show in London. I called booking line and they said the tickets I wanted would be £19.50 and I could have a free carer ticket, but I would have to call the theatre direct to reserve a wheelchair space.. 

    Except when I called, they don't have any wheelchair spaces anywhere except the expensive places.... And no free carer ticket... Costing £70 total.  So £19.50 if I were able bodied... £70 cos I'm not. 

    We're not going to go. 

    This is not an unusual situation. 

    Anyway, some great places but prices must be fair. Relaxed showings are fantastic. Info is power! 

    "I'm trying to live like a random poem I read that ended 'to bloom where we are planted"

  • fiona22264fiona22264 Member Posts: 1 Listener
    My daughter is 12 years of age and loves going to the cinema and musical and theatrical performances, however, changing facilities are a really big issue for us, we need space to change her and disabled loos just aren't big enough, ideally a hoist and a bench, but a big space would be a start.
  • Liam_AlumniLiam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,113 Pioneering
    Hi @mikehughescq, I absolutely agree. As someone who is mildly deaf/hard of hearing, I probably would have benefitted from StageText (on stage subtitles) as well. I think there's a lot of adjustments theatres need to make - alongside relaxed performances - to make them accessible to as many people as possible.
  • Liam_AlumniLiam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,113 Pioneering
    Thanks, @mossycow! I'm glad you liked the post. I'm sorry to hear about the trouble you had with the theatre, though! That really is a shame, but I'm glad The Sage are supportive.

    It's nice to meet a fellow music fan, too! I play the drums (sadly, not as much as I used to, nowadays) and it's great fun. As you mention, the arts really are wonderful!
  • jackiewackiejackiewackie Member Posts: 11 Listener
    My son saw it in London with his drama class as studied it for gcse.

    He is a wheelchair user and they accommodated him extremely well plus I got to see it as  well.

    We don't have problems seeing  shows but he  has appeared at  local theatres but not not even space for wheelchairs movement backstage  or in the wings 
  • Liam_AlumniLiam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,113 Pioneering
    Hi @jackiewackie, I'm so glad both you and your son got to see the show - it's brilliant, isn't it?

    I'm glad the theatres were accommodating and accessible for you when it comes to seeing shows. I'm sorry to hear of the difficulties backstage, though.
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