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ATG announces relaxed performance pilot scheme

Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) has today announced details of a relaxed performance pilot scheme for the 2012/2013 pantomime season.

The Churchill Theatre Bromley will be the first ATG venue to trial the scheme with a relaxed performance of Peter Pan starring Jennifer Ellison, Ace Bhatti, Andrew Agnew and Gemma Hunt on 5 December 2012. This will be followed by the Grimsby Auditorium and a performance of Cinderella with Kim Woodburn on 19 December 2012. In the New Year,  Richmond Theatre in Surrey will present a relaxed performance of Aladdin starring Tim Vine and Suzanne Shaw on 7 January 2013.

The pilot scheme is supported by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) who have been collaborating with ATG on the delivery of these performances alongside pantomime producers, UK Productions (Peter Pan), Principal Productions (Cinderella) and First Family Entertainment (Aladdin).

As part of the plans, theatre staff will also receive training from The National Autistic Society (NAS).

If the scheme is successful, ATG intends to work towards presenting a relaxed performance at one of its West End theatres in 2013.

Relaxed Performances are aimed at families with children with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, sensory and communication disorders, a learning disability or for anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed environment. There are likely to be some small changes to the show, in terms of lighting and sound cues, but the overall content of the show will not change. There’s also a more relaxed attitude to noise in the auditorium, in order to reduce anxiety and ensure a safe, enjoyable theatre visit. Bookers will be sent a visual story (detailed information and photos), be invited to attend a familiarisation meeting in the theatre and there will be a designated ‘chill-out’ area for use during the performance. 

Rosemary Squire, ATG’s Joint Chief Executive, said: 'Access is a subject that is at the very heart of our company and it’s our aim to provide a magical experience for all our patrons. We already have a comprehensive Access policy and training programme in place and these performances will complement the excellent work already carried out by Karen and her team.'

Karen Townsend, ATG’s Head of Learning and Access, said: 'These fantastic performances are part of ATG’s Access delivery. As a company we already offer audio, signed and captioned performances across all our venues but we hope that the relaxed performances prove popular with our customers so that we can build them permanently into our Access programme next year and beyond.'

Kirsty Hoyle, Access Manager SOLT/TMA, said: 'We are incredibly excited by the scheduling of these relaxed performances and anticipate that they will be a great success.  They will offer a fantastic way to engage with this new audience and deepen the brilliant work ATG already does to continually increase the accessibility of its venues.'

Heather Wildsmith, Development Officer at The National Autistic Society, who is providing training to ATG, said: 'It is great that the Ambassador Theatre Group is working with the NAS to pilot autism-friendly ‘relaxed performances’ so that people with the condition and their families can experience the fun of theatre in an accommodating environment, and we hope more theatre groups will follow suit. Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition that can make activities like trips to the theatre difficult and stressful. By training staff in awareness and understanding and making small, practical adjustments to the surroundings and ambience, it can result in a more predictable and less threatening atmosphere and help to lower anxiety. These changes can make a world of difference to someone with autism and their family by allowing them access to the joy and magic of live performance, which they might otherwise have been unable to experience.'

All three relaxed performances are now on sale via the venues or www.atgtickets.com

Co-founded by Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire in 1992, ATG is the largest owner/operator of theatres in the UK with 39 venues, an internationally recognised theatre producer and a leader in theatre ticketing services through ATG Tickets.

Current and recent ATG co-productions in London, UK regionally and internationally include Posh/Jumpy/Constellations (Royal Court at the Duke of York’s in the West End), 9 to 5 the Musical, The Mystery of Charles Dickens, South Pacific, All New People, Dandy Dick, Blue/Orange, Ghost the Musical, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!, Legally Blonde the Musical, Monty Python’s Spamalot, Being Shakespeare, The Misanthrope, West Side Story, Elling, Guys and Dolls, The Mountaintop, Exit the King and The Rocky Horror Show.