Yesterday, I was at The Lowry Theatre in Salford to meet the resident director of War Horse, Charlotte Peters, along with Topthorn the horse, and the cast that puppeteer him. Their aim and challenge is to transform the current show into a relaxed performance. The key message from the day being that theatre is for everyone. I couldn't agree more.
A relaxed performance is for anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed performance environment – including those with an autism spectrum condition, dementia, or a learning disability. Tiny modifications are made to a show, and the audience experience of going to the theatre is shaped differently. All of the theatrical and venue decisions are made based on the kind of show it is and what the venue is like. It's about getting the balance just right between maintaining the authenticity of the original production and making subtle changes to it which make it accessible and appropriate for a relaxed audience.
On Thursday 28th June at 2pm, a relaxed performance of War Horse will take place for the first time in the North of England. This is a theatrical event exclusively for a relaxed audience. Before the show, a shortened version of the story will be presented to the audience for contextual purposes. The house lights will remain low during the performance. The overall volume for the show will be turned down by 30%. There will be a relaxed area in the foyer, where if anyone wants or needs to leave they can do. It's okay if audience members were to spontaneously shout something out, during the performance.
A show about the first world war might be unnerving for some in the audience, so live gun shots will be replaced by a sound effect, and scary or upsetting scenes will be tweaked accordingly. There will be no sudden lighting or sound cues. Everything is made softer. The relaxed performance was created with a team of researchers, and the previous relaxed performance of War Horse received positive feedback. The creative team found the relaxed audience felt secure going into the performance environment knowing they could leave at any time. In addition, they discovered that the show's changes and calmer atmosphere appeared to work for everyone.
War Horse is a magnificent play. It incorporates beautiful music and war sketches. The production is vivid and cinematic in feel. I feel the relaxed audience will love visiting another world, engaging with the story, and meeting all of the animal characters. Relaxed performances are becoming more prominent in the current theatrical climate, both in a commercial and alternative theatre context. I think and hope it will become a regular occurrence. It's a wonderful thing.
The relaxed performance of War Horse is on Thursday 28th June at 2pm, The Lowry. It's only available to book via phone. The box office number is 0843 208 6000.
Reportage - Sam Lowe
on - 19/6/18