Thursday, 20 December 2012

Day 26- A Good "Sign" of the time!

“I have always thought it would be a blessing if each person could be blind and deaf for a few days during his early adult life. Darkness would make him appreciate sight; silence would teach him the joys of sound.” –{Helen Keller ~ Blind and Deaf American Author and Educator 1880-1968}

I chose this quote because the cast, crew, theatre staff and probably the audiences have experienced a few humbling shows this week past, and I thought special reference should be made to them.  On Friday passed we did a special "relaxed performance", where parents of children part of the autistic spectrum and similar learning difficulties, were catered too in a special one off showing.  What is a relaxed performance - well I'll list the main principals...

  • House lighting remains on at a low level.
  • Band and microphone levels reduced.
  • Sound & special effects are removed.
  • Actors coming down into the audience removed or frequency reduced.
  • A special chill out zone for all patrons.
  • Theatre doors left open and normal social rules "relaxed".
The aim of the theatre was to provide an atmosphere where, families who would normally avoid the theatre due to their anxieties, could gather and enjoy themselves knowing that they wouldn't be judged or frowned upon by other (perhaps) ignorant patrons.  The families had been sent out information packs the week before, so that parents could prepare their children for what was to come - these packs included pictures of the actors.

The feedback I have heard and seen seems fantastic and so many parents said that their children thoroughly enjoyed the show, and due to the set-up of the performance parents felt able to enjoy themselves too, without having to worry about their children.  They all seemed to enjoy the meet and greet at the end, where all the principals went front of house to say goodbye.  This gives them a closure to the show.  I'm not an expert on these matters, so I hope I haven't relayed of this information too erroneously, but it all seemed worthwhile and something that will be repeated annually.  Why has this not be thought of sooner and on a more widespread playing field?!  Hopefully plans are in action to rectify this!

Following this up we were joined on stage for the Tuesday evening performance by Anne McAllister, who gave a BSL signed performance.  She receives the script in advance so she knows what is coming.  Bless Anne, it's not an easy job - there's a lot to get through and it's sometimes quite quick.  I remember having some good banter with Anne the last time I was here, as she frantically relayed our tongue twister to the audience!  She's brilliant - and probably did it better than myself and Lloyd (2008/9's Wishee Washee).

I couldn't let her get away without a bit of a mention this year, so with "I am PC Pongo of the Old Peking Police force" came "And that ay easy to say in this authentic Chinese accent!  Hey Anne - how are you going to cope signing in a Brummie accent!"  It got a good laugh and more importantly a smile from Anne herself!  Good on her!

The highlight of the special guests for me was probably the veterans from Headley Court.  A soldier rehabilitation centre not far from here, where men & women, injured whilst on active service, can rebuild their lives.  We had people without arms and legs,  but lacking no spirit whatsoever!  They were an inspirational group of guys.  Royce stepped forward at the end of the show and made a short speech about them, their struggles and their successes to date, and congratulated them on how far they'd already come!  The audience were very receptive!

Down in the bar afterwards we met them all, and had a good chat about them and the show.  I moan and grumble when I get bruises from the mangle and here are these folks, beaming smiles, high spirits and full of the vigour of life, I imagine highly focused on the old adage "when you've stared death in the face..."  I think everyone left the bar both touched and uplifted, after signing programmes and taking pictures - although the chaps wanted far more pictures of Emma than they did any of the rest of us!!

Thank you to everyone at the Yvonne Arnaud who arranged for these choking yet inspirational and heart warming events!  I always feel good after a show - but this was on a different level!

Best wishes,

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