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Widening Participation in Theatre through ‘Relaxed Performances’

  • Andrew J. Kempe

Abstract

In this article Andy Kempe discusses how a nationwide project has marked a significant step forward in improving access to the theatre for UK audiences who have hitherto felt largely excluded from theatre by mounting a number of ‘relaxed performances’. He makes particular reference to autistic spectrum disorders to illustrate how, in order to widen participation, theatres need to cater for a diverse range of individual needs. The article explores the challenges of catering for children and young people who may be, variously, under- or over-sensitive to sensory stimuli, in both the way performances are adapted and how the front-of-house is organized. A case study is offered of how one small regional theatre sought to address these challenges by giving a ‘relaxed performance’ of its annual pantomime. The impact of the production is considered as well as insights that have emerged from the enterprise. Andy Kempe is Professor of Drama Education and a Teaching Fellow of the University of Reading. His work with students of all ages and abilities has informed his numerous publications on a variety of issues in drama and arts education, including Drama, Disability, and Education (Routledge, 2012).

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Widening Participation in Theatre through ‘Relaxed Performances’

  • Andrew J. Kempe

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