Relaxed performance

10 December 2012

Children and young people with autism, learning disabilities and sensory and communication disorders, will be able to attend a relaxed performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company's family show, The Mouse and His Child, on Monday 7 January at 1.15pm.

The Mouse and His Child is a new stage adaptation of Russell Hoban's enchanting story of escape and the search for freedom which runs at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until 12 January 2013. The matinee performance on 7 January has been chosen to launch a national Relaxed Performance Project piloted by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) and The Prince's Foundation for Children & the Arts (Children & the Arts).

Many families with autistic children or children with sensory and communication needs and/or a learning disability are reluctant for a variety of reasons to attend public theatre performances. Relaxed performances are a fantastic way to offer families the chance to experience theatre together and the children benefit from an environment where the performance is adjusted to reduce anxiety or stress. For example, changes are made to sound and lighting to eliminate surprise and soften their impact. There is a relaxed attitude to noise and moving around the auditorium during the performance and a designated 'chill-out' area for people to use if being in the auditorium becomes overwhelming.

The RSC will adapt its performance of The Mouse and His Child (suitable for children aged 7+) both as part of the national Relaxed Performance Project and as part of its wider commitment to broadening access to its work and theatres.

Jacqui O'Hanlon, Director of Education at the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: 'The Mouse and His Child is a show aimed at families and children and it is particularly exciting that just by making a number of small but important adjustments, we can open that experience up to young people and families who might not experience live theatre otherwise. I am thrilled that our production will be the first to pilot this brilliant UK-wide project – and I hope that in time, relaxed performances will become a standard feature of British theatre-going.'

The Relaxed Performance Project pilot is an important step in reaching out to families who until now have felt excluded from the theatre. The pilot is starting with 10 theatres across the UK, and the plan is to encourage many more theatres to take part. The project will lead to the development of a best practice model for national and international use. The project has been made possible through generous funding by the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation.

Commenting on the project Jeremy Newton, CEO, The Prince's Foundation for Children & the Arts, said:
'Children & the Arts believes that every child should have the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by the arts, but unfortunately many children with autism have faced an unfair barrier to access. This project is about making the theatre welcoming and inclusive for these children and young adults. We already cater for disabilities through audio-described, captioned and signed performances so why not relaxed performances too?'

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association, commented: 'The challenge we have is reaching those families who have the most benefit from relaxed performances and making them feel welcome at the theatre. Much more needs to be done to communicate the messages and generate awareness of relaxed performances by working alongside the agencies and charities that are in regular contact with families. The Mouse and His Child is the perfect production to raise the profile of this pilot project, and we are delighted to be working with the RSC.'

Tickets for this performance will be priced at £5 for children and £10 for adults and all bookers will be sent a visual story to help them familiarise themselves with the plot, characters and the setting in advance of their visit to the theatre.

Tickets can be purchased by calling the RSC's Ticket Hotline on 0844 800 1110.

-Ends-

Notes to editors:

About the Relaxed Performance Project
Being piloted in ten theatres across the UK, the Relaxed Performance Project aims to provide access to creative, safe and inspiring public theatre performances for children with special needs, including Autistic Spectrum Conditions and/or learning disabilities and, crucially, their families. Performances are specially designed to give those who otherwise might feel excluded the chance to experience live theatre.
'Relaxed Performances' are designed to have a less formal, more supportive atmosphere in order to reduce anxiety levels. To achieve this, performances are adapted in a number of ways, including through hosting familiarisation pre-performance visits for families; training actors and front of house staff; cultivating an embracing attitude to audience movement and noise during the performance; adjusting light levels and special effects; and providing chill-out spaces for families.

The participating theatres across the UK include the RSC Stratford-Upon-Avon, Theatre Royal Newcastle, The National Theatre, Ambassadors Theatre Group, Nottingham Playhouse. The portfolio of theatres have been selected based on the type of production on offer – a representative range of musicals, drama, comedy and pantomime – all of which are family friendly and appealing to a range of ages, in order to develop robust best practice for the theatre sector at large. A research team has been commissioned to assess the audience, staff and theatre experience, the findings of which will be disseminated to the sector and families in autumn 2013 with the aim of encouraging regularly programmed relaxed performances across the UK in the future.

Project partners are Society of London Theatre (SOLT), the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) and The Prince's Foundation for Children & the Arts (Children & the Arts) with generous support provided by the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation. The team is also working closely with partners from the autism sector, including The National Autistic Society.

About The Prince's Foundation for Children & the Arts
The Prince's Foundation for Children & the Arts (Children & the Arts) transforms children's lives through participation in the arts. We use the arts to tackle educational disadvantage, caused by social and economic circumstances.

Children & the Arts targets 'poverty of aspiration' by inspiring children to use the arts to build self-confidence and self-esteem and to nurture skills in communication, creativity, analysis and teamwork. Our funded programmes build lasting partnerships between schools and the cultural venues in their local area, enabling children to attend professional performances and exhibitions, and to benefit from enrichment activities both in-school and at the venue.

Over 300,000 children have participated in our projects. 90% of our projects have continued to thrive well beyond the lifespan of our support. For more information and to support us please visit childrenandarts.org.uk

About the Society of London Theatre
The Society of London Theatre is the association which represents the producers, theatre owners and managers of the 52 major commercial and grant-aided theatres in central London. The organisation exists in order to promote theatregoing, develop audiences, and to serve, protect and promote the interests of those engaged in theatre across London, through activities including The Olivier Awards with MasterCard, TKTS ticket booth, the Official London Theatre guide, Theatre Tokens, West End LIVE and the promotions Kids Week and Get Into London Theatre.

About the Theatrical Management Association
Established in 1894, the TMA is a leading trade association representing the interests of and providing professional support for the performing arts in the UK. Our members include theatres, multi-purpose venues, arts centres, concert halls, commercial producers, touring theatre, opera and ballet companies, sole traders and suppliers to the performing arts. www.tmauk.org. Since 1991 the annual TMA Theatre Awards have celebrated the creative excellence and outstanding work seen in UK theatres each year. These awards were relaunched as the Theatre Awards UK in 2011.

The Mouse and His Child
A new adaptation by Tamsin Oglesby
Based on the book by Russell Hoban
Directed by Paul Hunter
ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE, Stratford-upon-Avon. 17 November 2012 – 12 January 2013

The Royal Shakespeare Company's tradition of family shows continues this winter with the premiere of the first major stage adaptation of Russell Hoban's book The Mouse and His Child.

A clockwork mouse and his child are discarded by children on Christmas Day. Lost and alone, they desperately want to get back home to the toyshop. This enchanting tale has inspired a thousand wonderful stories about what really happens in the toy box when we're not looking.

For further information on the Relaxed Performance Project please contact:

Marcus Stanton
The Prince's Foundation for Children & the Arts
Tel. 020 8617 0210
Mob. 07900 891287
Email.marcus_stanton@btopenworld.com

For further information on The Mouse and His Child please contact:

Jo Hammond
RSC Press Office
Tel. 01789 272417
Mob. 07739 330294
Email.jo.hammond@rsc.org.uk

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