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Richmond Theatre celebrates World Autism Awareness Day & announces next Relaxed Performance

Approved by ATG's PR & Communications Officer, David Bradbury

On Wednesday 2 April Richmond Theatre will be joining other Ambassador Theatre Group venues in celebrating World Autism Awareness Day by holding bucket collections to raise money for the National Autistic Society (NAS). To coincide with this day, Richmond Theatre are also pleased to announce that, following on from the success of January’s hugely popular relaxed performance of Peter Pan starring Henry Winkler and 2013’s performance of Aladdin as part of ATG’s pilot scheme, a further relaxed performance of this year’s pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been scheduled for Friday 9 January 2015.

This performance will be specially adapted for anyone with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, sensory and communication disorders, a learning disability or for anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed environment. Unlike the previous two years and following audience feedback, this relaxed performance has been scheduled in the matinee time slot (1.30pm), as the theatre hopes to meet the needs of a greater number of families and school groups.

Autism affects over 700,000 people in the UK (more than 1 in 100) and if you include their families, 2.7 million lives are challenged by this life long developmental disability. Autism affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people, and how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition so people with autism can be affected by their condition in a range of different ways and on different levels. Some people may experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours, and as with previous relaxed performances it is likely that there will be some small changes to the show, in terms of lighting and sound cues, to make the performance more comfortable for audience members with an Autistic Spectrum Condition. The overall content of the show will not change.

There will also be 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) in advance, will be invited to attend a familiarisation meeting in the theatre, and a designated ‘chill-out’ area will be made available for use during the performance. 

An NAS spokesperson said: 'We have enjoyed a good working relationship with ATG over the past couple of years with autism friendly/relaxed performances and we are so grateful that venues such as Richmond Theatre have been able to offer these opportunities to our families as we know how highly they are appreciated.'

General Manager of Richmond Theatre, Kate Wrightson said: 'We are pleased to be supporting NAS through our fundraising efforts on World Autism Awareness Day, and spreading the understanding of how Autistic Spectrum Conditions can affect people’s lives in different ways. We hope that by marking this event with the announcement of further relaxed performances to come at Richmond Theatre we can raise general awareness of what we have to offer for anyone with an Autistic Spectrum Condition who might otherwise think that the theatre isn’t for them.'

The relaxed performance of Peter Pan held at Richmond Theatre in January was extremely popular with local families and specialist schools in the West London area. One mother who attended the relaxed performance of Peter Pan commented after the show, I took my 16yr old autistic daughter to her first pantomime - she loved it and the relaxed performance was great. We were made to feel very welcome and the leaflets describing the event in simple language were very good.

Richmond Theatre’s relaxed performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  on Friday 9 January at 1.30pm, is already on sale and tickets can be booked at www.atgtickets.com/richmond or 0844 871 7651 (fees apply).