Pantomime symbol resources
By Zoë Briggs
Recently, we've been looking at panto through new eyes. In fact, we've been considering our diverse range of pantomime audiences and making sure our Christmas productions are as accessible as possible for everyone.
In 2013, English National Ballet worked with the Cultural Institute at King's College London to create symbol resources for their production of Coppelia designed especially for families. The symbols helped make the ballet accessible to children with learning difficulties, allowing interpretation of the story and the characters for those that find text difficult. They also created flashcards and activities, to make the experience as interactive as possible. The UK tour of My First Coppelia toured to four ATG theatres across the country and our Access Champions made sure that audiences took full advantage of this special resource.
Fast forward a year, and this time ATG is learning from those initial trailblazers. Our theatres are full of families at Christmastime, and we want children to have an experience to remember when they attend our pantomimes.
We have worked with Dr Chris Abbott and Widgit Software to create specialist symbol resources to unlock the fairytales and prepare families for their visit to the theatre. Choosing Snow White as our pilot pantomime, we have 'translated' the production into a simple storyboard of symbols - colourful and bright, just like our pantos. Plus, there's an introduction to what it's like to attend a pantomime, again published in symbol format, so that there are no uncomfortable surprises.
Children with sensory disabilities might find a pantomime overwhelming, so this will help them understand what to expect. Audiences at Richmond Theatre, Manchester Opera House and Sunderland Empire will be able to try out the new symbols this Christmas, and they are available to download before your visit too.
We can't wait to find out what our audiences think of the symbol resources. If the response is positive, we'll consider extending what we can offer to include games and activities, and cover all the pantomime titles. If you'd like to send us your feedback, please do so via our survey.
For us, this new initiative has brought pantomime into a different focus. We hope that lots of families will discover a new way into pantomime - and into our theatres - this Christmas.