A visit to the theatre is always an extraordinary experience, especially at the iconic Birmingham Hippodrome. The dimming of the lights, the opening of the curtains and the clapping crowd: then the magic begins.

Though traditionally, not all theatre-goers will get the same level of experience, particularly those with Autistic Spectrum Condition, learning disabilities or sensory and communication disorders. To make the theatre more accessible, the Hippodrome creates a specially tailored range of Relaxed Performances.

The environment allows everyone to feel safe, encourages guests to react to shows as they wish and there is more space so that everyone is comfortable.  Visitors are welcome to walk in and out of the auditorium as they please, and make noise throughout, with certain aspects of the script adapted to suit the audience.

Darwin Escapes were invited to support the Relaxed Performance of Peter Pan in January. Steph Nichols, Leisure Manager at Cheddar Woods Resort & Spa, volunteered last month and shared her impressions of the day.

“We started by training with Liz Leck, the Creative Learning Manager at the Hippodrome. The wonderful Liz has decades of experience in making the arts more accessible to schools and communities in the area. She started by briefing volunteers on safeguarding, outlined what we would be doing on the day and most importantly, talked us through identifying the needs of each individual.

“On the day itself, volunteers were partnered with staff at the Hippodrome. We all wore sparkly trilby hats, to let guests know that we’re friendly and safe people to speak to during their visit. Our job was to welcome our guests when they first entered. We also hosted visitors in relaxed sensory play areas as they waited for performances to begin. We were at hand through the day to answer any questions and support teachers, parents and carers however we could.

“It was my first time working with people with special needs and with the support of the Hippodrome staff it was truly a rewarding experience. I was inspired by the way teachers, parents and Hippodrome staff worked with children. It opened my eyes to working with all types of people which will no doubt help me at my job in Cheddar Woods.

The Peter Pan Relaxed Performance sold out to over 1,600 guests. For many audience members, it would have been their very first theatre experience. Most of them don’t believe it would have been possible for their children to attend the theatre at all if it hadn’t been for Relaxed Performances.

“It’s difficult to put into words the reaction of the audience. When the play kicked off, it was just magical. The audience was immediately immersed in the world of Peter Pan. The look on everyone’s faces was just priceless. I would love to do something like this again.”

“It was an absolute pleasure for Darwin Escapes to be involved in the performance and to be able to support the Birmingham Hippodrome to create and provide such a unique experience that enables its visitors to enjoy memories that last a lifetime, in a safe and secure way. We very much hope we are invited to take part again.”

This post has been written by Darwin Escapes, prime sponsors of the relaxed performances of Peter Pan that took place on Wednesday 23rd January.

To see a full list of our Relaxed Performances click here.