With pantomime season in full swing, two County Durham theatre venues are providing accessible performances of their Christmas shows, so that all audiences can share in the festive fun.
Since late-November, Gala Durham and Consett’s Empire Theatre have been hosting their popular Christmas pantomimes with exciting performances of two traditional tales for audiences to enjoy.
At Gala, the theatre has been staging its annual panto with a production of Robin Hood, which will be entertaining families on stage until Sunday 9 January.
In Consett, the Empire Theatre is staging its own pantomime with an original production of Treasure Island, running until 31 December.
Both venues have been making sure their shows are accessible to audiences of all needs and abilities, with dedicated British Sign Language (BSL), captioned and relaxed performances.
Families can visit one of the upcoming accessible shows between December and January.
Consett Empire will be staging a relaxed performance of Treasure Island on Wednesday 29 December at 11am. Created for children and adult audiences with autism, learning difficulties or sensory conditions, relaxed performances are designed for those who would benefit from watching the production in a more informal environment.
In these performances, audiences are free to talk or move around if they need to, and a time out space is available for anyone who needs a break. Lighting, sound and special effects are slightly altered in order to reduce anxiety levels, and staff are trained to create a friendly setting and assist with any additional needs.
The Empire will also be staging a British Sign Language performance on 29 December at 3pm, where the performance will be interpreted by a trained member of the cast.
At Gala, there will be a British Sign Language and captioned performance of Robin Hood on Wednesday 5 January at 6pm, for audiences with hearing impairments who would benefit from assisted interpretation.
And on Thursday 6 January at 6pm, Gala will also be staging a relaxed performance of Robin Hood.
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “Visiting the theatre is a great trip out for families, especially at this time of year when we have our fun-filled Christmas programme. Our festive season is full of fantastic productions and is a key part of our culture and events calendar, which is one of the reasons the county is bidding for UK City of Culture 2025.
“We want all audiences to be able to visit our venues and enjoy our shows, so our accessible performances have been specially adapted to suit different needs and abilities. Following Rose Ayling-Ellis’ success on Strictly Come Dancing, we’ve noticed a lot of interest from audience members wanting to learn sign language, and our BSL performances have been just as popular.
“There is still time to book one of our shows before the year ends, so we encourage families to come along to a performance that suits them and enjoy the fun.”
Following government guidance and to keep each other safe from the spread of coronavirus, visitors must wear face coverings at all times inside the theatre venues.
Visitors are being encouraged to take precautionary measures to prevent transmission, such as keeping a one to two metre distance from others and washing hands often and thoroughly.
People are also asked not to attend the venue if they believe they have coronavirus, are showing symptoms, have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, or if they have been instructed to self-isolate.