22 August 2019

Accessible Theatre: The RSC.

Accessible theatre is vitally important. Theatre is for ALL. Just like anything, there is no place for discrimination. Yesterday I got the pleasure of seeing first hand some of the work the Royal Shakespeare Company do in regards to the accessible theatre.

Last week I won a competition for a Summer Escape Pass with the RSC. The pass included a visit up the theatre's tower, a visit to the award-winning The Play's The Thing exhibition, a front of house (although we were lucky enough to go backstage too) tour, a 2-course pre-theatre dinner at Susie's and tickets to a play. I picked to have a second visit to see The Taming of the Shrew which is running in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I had to ring up to book in the package and I wasn't aware until I collected the tickets that I'd booked for the BSL interpreted performance.

You think BSL interpreted and you imagine a signer stood to one side of the stage signing the performance. Not at the RSC. Fully costumed here the signer is as much part of the performance as any of the actors. It works brilliantly, and although personally I don't require or to my shame understand the sign language it's a joy to watch it done this way.

At last nights performance, Clare Edwards was our signer. In the fascinating post-show talk with the company, Clare discussed here workings on how she interpreted Shakespeare's text. How she listened and listened to the play to prepare for the performance. Watching Clare throughout was a privilege. She fitted into the play superbly. Bear in mind that she was never off stage throughout and did the performance with only a few hours of rehearsals with the company yesterday. I can't heap enough praise on Clare or the company for the work they did to get this performance together.

I also got to experience a second of the RSC's accessible options last night too. My dad is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. We often book to sit in the front row as it's better for his hearing but we'd also been hearing about the headphones that are available that enhance the audio. We were chatting with one of the RSC staff (who I must say were excellent yesterday in every aspect - especially when the IT system's crashed) who said his wife had used the headphones recently and said she'd wished she'd had them for years. My Dad too sang the praises of the headphones after the performance. It was great that it allowed him to enhance his enjoyment.

The RSC offers various other accessible performance options. Captioned and audio-described (including touch tours and audio notes). They also offer chilled and relaxed performances which offer the same productions but with a more relaxed feel to the auditorium.

There is also great access throughout the RSC buildings for people with access needs. The theatre is designed for everybody so that everybody can experience the world-class theatre the RSC produces.

Whilst I know that all theatres offer access performances I know that some theatres could be better in certain areas. The RSC is a leading theatre company leading the way for accessible theatre and I'm proud of them for that.

To read more about the access options at the RSC or to book any of the future access performances please visit here.

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