Theatre for all- Written by Nikita Wakefield

By Llara Munn on February 1st, 2019 - comments

Some members of the audience were blind and some were deaf, but this company made dreams come true and gave everyone the chance to go to the ball.

The relaxed performance of the pantomime Cinderella was organised by Magna Vitae and drew a lot of attention this year due to the amount of extra’s included in the experience.

This unique showing included a seated activity session organised by a group called Active Lincolnshire which has been running since 1997 and is a “Branch of Sport England for Lincolnshire, delivering programmes and projects,” says Ian Brown.

Active Lincolnshire facilitates activities for a number of different groups within our community. Many of these projects and activities are funded by outside companies such as Macmillan.

Members from the Active Lincolnshire group Ian Brown, 46 and Llara Munn, 32, who are Project Lead and Marketing Communication officer respectively, helped to organise the seated activity session.

The performance, held at the Embassy Theatre in Skegness on 20th December 2018, included British Sign Language signed interpretation, for those hard of hearing, audio descriptive narration for the blind and partially sighted as well as a touch tour, character familiarisation and a pre-show seated exercise.

A relaxed performance of the pantomime was tried last year with a signer and a “little bit of audio description,” says Ian. However because of the success of last year it was decided the whole thing would be up scaled with a focus on inclusivity and exercises. They brought in a professional signer who was “really good and got into all the songs,” and for those of hard of hearing they had the “producer who was talking them through (the performance) telling them what was going on on stage” through hearing loops, says Ian.

The pantomime itself was not about taking away the effects of a pantomime but more about adding accessibility and “combining the arts with activity,” says, Llara Munn. The performance included a touch tour, which featured during the intermission of Cinderella. This allowed members of the audience to see and feel some props of the show close up. Props included Cinderella’s infamous glass slipper which Cinderella showed around herself. The touch tour encouraged “tactile engagement,” says Llara.

The character familiarisation was also an element of the show which was organised to feature before the pantomime to allow the audience a chance to meet the characters “We had the characters spread out” not to overwhelm people by introducing everyone all at once. It helped the audience to familiarise themselves with the characters before seeing them on the stage. “Introducing them slowly” was important for this particular audience.

A major project for Active Lincolnshire is the ‘Get out get active’ project, which encourages people of all ages and abilities to get active. This is something they wanted to include in the performance. “Statistics are showing that people with disabilities are less active” and not only this but “they feel they have less opportunity to be active,” says Llara.

Active Lincolnshire saw the pantomime as a good opportunity to get people up and active and decided to include a “brief seated exercise session,” says Llara. Llara from Active Lincolnshire, Max the tiger who is their mascot and an actor form the pantomime were the ones on stage that presented the exercise element to the audience.

“It wasn’t very long it was probably between five to ten minutes,” says Llara. The exercises included lifting your arms and stamping your feet and the audience was encouraged to participate as the exercises were “really gentle” and “easy to follow” and also allowed for “audience participation and reaction” says Llara.

The exercise section was very unique and to the knowledge of Active Lincolnshire they are the first to do this sort of thing. The exercise idea came from the proof that children who exercise before school focus better in lessons. “We thought this would be brilliant for this audience” to allow them to be more focused on the show. It also gave the audience something to do before the show started as many had learning difficulties of some kind and do not deal well with sitting still as they get bored easily.

The success from this showing of Cinderella was appreciated by many and even recognised on the regional news. Active Lincolnshire are hoping because of this many other places will do similar things next year. “Our chief executor has been promoting it,” Ian says.

They also plan to deliver the performance on a non-school day to allow for a bigger audience. It is also in the works to have two shows next time to get more people involved with the ‘Get Out, Get Active’ scheme.