What is a relaxed performance?
A relaxed performance is a performance that has been adapted in particular ways which make it more accessible for a range of potential audience members, including autistic audiences, as well as audience members with sensory or communication conditions or learning disabilities.
In a relaxed performance, the intensity of sound and lighting in a performance is reduced to avoid the risk of overwhelm. The etiquette of the theatre is “relaxed” so that audience members can feel more free to move around, make noise, behave in non-normative ways, and generally react to the performance as they please. Certain information about the production is provided well in advance, so that audience members can attend with a greater sense of confidence and certainty. A “chillout space” meeting certain specifications is available to audience members who may need a break from the show. Theatre staff are given additional training to ensure they can provide a welcoming theatre environment.
What is A_Tistic’s approach to relaxed performances?
A_tistic sees relaxed performance as the practice of adapting a show to “meet the audience halfway”. We consider that relaxed performance principles can make theatre not just more accommodating for autistic audience members, but also for people with ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, people who have emotionally demanding jobs or tiring lives, reluctant or new theatre goers, and so on. We try to create relaxed performances that provide a “curb cut” effect. Over time, we hope to equip more theatre practitioners with the skills they need to make more accessible theatre, and to normalise relaxed performance within the Australian theatre scene.
We don’t want to create “shows with deficits to accommodate for audience with deficits”; instead we approach relaxed performance as an opportunity to expand the norms of theatre to make them more accessible, while maintaining the spirit and impact of the show.
We believe that relaxed performance principles can be used in all sorts of environments, and in works with just about any content, in just about any form. We draw on approaches developed by autistic event organisers and community builders to relax interactive works, multi-site works and other innovative arts experiences.
We also know that there are autistic people of all ages and all tastes – even though relaxed performance has often been offered exclusively for children’s shows, we are interested in offering relaxed performance adaptation to works aimed at adults. Please note that at this stage, A_tistic only provides relaxed performance support for productions aimed at adult audiences. In future we may expand our practice to support productions aimed primarily at children.
We work to augment technical elements rather than removing them wherever possible. When we develop “Relaxed Guides” and promotional materials for shows, our goal is to allow adult audiences with a range of abilities and needs to make informed decisions about their attendance and participation. We can send you an example of one of our Relaxed Guides upon request, or talk with you about what kinds of elements it would include.
hiring us to facilitate a relaxed performance of your production
We offer a system of relaxed performance adaptation at relatively low rates, so that we can support artists with small independent theatre budgets to develop their own relaxed performance practice.
In our view, best practice for relaxed performance involves publication of a Relaxed Guide no later than 3 weeks before the performance. Because of this, if you’re keen to run a relaxed performance, it’s best to contact us earlier in your production process, so we can suggest a timeline of work that accords with best practice.