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Kirrie Panto Group leads the way with first relaxed performance for those with additional needs

Paula Milne, centre, with the panto cast during rehearsals.
Paula Milne, centre, with the panto cast during rehearsals.

A Tayside theatre group is stripping back its usual lively pantomime production for one show this year to put on a relaxed performance for those with additional needs.

Kirrie Panto Group members are rehearsing Mother Goose, which runs from December 3 to 7, and are leading the way to ensure the show is accessible to all.

The shorter show will be toned down with all loud noises and strobe lighting removed, the lights in the Kirriemuir Town Hall will not be dimmed, children will be able to “break out” in a chill out zone in the foyer and the show will be fully signed.

It is designed for those with sensory sensitivities, an autism spectrum condition or learning disability.

Paula Milne, assistant director and relaxed performance co-ordinator, first heard about the concept from a feature on morning television in January.

Some of the ‘Mother Goose’ cast during rehearsals.

Jason Gardiner, choreographer, actor, singer and ‘Dancing on Ice’ judge, was talking about making theatre accessible to all with a “relaxed performance” aimed at anyone with autism.

She said: “I thought this would be a great idea to pitch to the panto committee.

“Remembering how scared my own daughter was the first time she was brought along to see panto, I thought how terrifying this must be for anyone with any additional needs.

“Relaxed performances are basically the same performance as normal but with the house lights up and all the loud bangs, crashes and flashing lights removed.

“The committee thought about the wider range of additional requirements and felt we would like to open this up to anyone with additional needs including mobility and anyone in nursing care.”

They have fully embraced the concept of making their 2019 production accessible to all with a special performance at 10.30am on Saturday December 7, in what they believe is a first for Angus.

Rehearsals for ‘Mother Goose’ in Kirriemuir Town Hall.

They will reduce the capacity of seating downstairs, giving extra room between seats, and will supply mats near the stage for children and in the foyer as a “breakout zone”.

The entire show will be signed in Makaton.

Paula, who plays Mother Goose, said: “Webster Campus/Southmuir Primary teachers have kindly donated mats and play equipment which they feel will benefit anyone with autism or sensory needs.

“We are hoping to have a small supply of ear defenders and booster seats.

“These small changes will allow parents and carers to hopefully feel more relaxed about their visit to our show.”

The relaxed performance will also prove popular for the elderly who may find evening shows too late and the Saturday matinee too busy.

Tickets for the relaxed performance are only available by contacting Neil on 07951 833043 or email relaxed@kirriepantogroup.co.uk

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