The rise and rise of autism-friendly theatre

For this year’s World Autism Awareness Week, we’re exploring what theatres can do to make shows more accessible for the autistic community.

It’s thought that around one in seven people are neurodivergent in some way - that’s 15 per cent of the working population. This means the brain may function a little differently from “neurotypical” brains. The term neurodivergence covers a spectrum of conditions, from autism to attention deficit disorder, dyspraxia to dyslexia.

It’s a given that theatres will want to accommodate as wide an audience as possible, and relaxed performances are one way they can do this. After all, why should people who find physically being in the theatre challenging not sit and enjoy brilliantly well-told stories if they want?

Relaxed performances aren’t difficult for theatres to implement. They require the theatre to listen to their audience and their community and ask what is needed to make every performance more accessible. Relaxed performances can take on many forms and this short film explores what they are and why they’re such an important part of running a successful building.

Kat Dulfer, an actor with Asperger’s, explains why relaxed performances are so vital, while the Nottingham Playhouse team talk about what goes into making a relaxed performance happen (with a little help from the Skellig team). Justin Audibert, artistic director of The Unicorn Theatre chats about why the Unicorn Theatre was one of the first adapters of relaxed performances, while The Polar Bears’ crew Ivor MacAskil and Fiona Manson talk about how they deal with audience interruptions and movement.

Catch Skellig by David Almond at Nottingham Playhouse running until Sunday 7 April 2019 and other great shows. Buy tickets here

See The Polar Bears GO GO GO at The Unicorn Theatre until 28 April 2019 and other performances. Buy tickets here

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