A child and teenager being cared for by East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) enjoyed an afternoon of panto fun in Norwich. They were invited to a special ‘relaxed’ performance of Jack and the Beanstalk, at Norwich Theatre Royal.
The matinee was for people – children and adults alike – who may find it difficult to attend a standard show. This includes people with learning disabilities, movement disorders, autistic spectrum disorder, other sensory, communication or neurological conditions, or those with young children or babies.
There are reduced special effects and no loud sound effects. The lighting is kept higher in the auditorium and there is a relaxed attitude to the audience making noise or choosing to move around if they need to.
Outside the auditorium, the theatre provides a chill-out space for anyone needing to take a break, and for staff to help with finding seats or moving around. EACH Senior Carer Jo Bishop and Clinical Educator Julian Geraghty attended, along with Caroline Read, who volunteers at the theatre and also at The Nook, in Framingham Earl.
Julian said: “We had a great time.
“The young lad I took really enjoyed it and was happy to sit and watch for long periods. It was great fun and knowing we could get up and leave at any time was very reassuring, even though we didn’t need to.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked and how much the audience were happy to join in and make lots of noise. We had plenty of space and, as the lights were up, I was able to keep a close eye on the young man I was with.”
Jo accompanied 15-year-old Ben Harwood, who has Lowe Syndrome – a condition almost exclusive to males that primarily affects the eyes, brain and kidneys.
She said: “Ben described the panto as ‘awesome’. He absolutely loved it and, I’m told by his mum, talked about it constantly at school the following day. He especially loved the cow!
“I’d also like to add that the staff at the theatre were extremely helpful and supportive, looking after a wheelchair and keeping it safe during the panto. They then returned it at the end without having to be asked.”
The relaxed performance took place on Tuesday, 4th January.
Norwich Theatre Head of Visitor Services, James MacDonald said: “We want to make the theatre as inclusive and welcoming as possible, and providing relaxed performances alongside other access performances such as audio described, signed and captioned ensures we can provide that creative experience to the widest reach.
“It was fantastic to welcome the children and staff from EACH to our relaxed performance of Jack and the Beanstalk, and we are delighted they enjoyed the show so much.”
Pictures: EACH/Richard Jarmy Photography