The Theatre Royal in Nottingham, this year celebrating 150 years of pantomimes, have some brilliantly organised relaxed performances of their excellent Christmas pantomime, Aladdin. Relaxed performances are designed specifically for people who will benefit from this environment, including those with a Autistic spectrum disorder, learning difficulties or sensory and communication disorders. They allow people who may not be able to cope with a regular performance to have the opportunity to join in with the festive tradition in an atmosphere conducive to their needs.

I have never been to a Theatre Royal pantomime performance but have heard such brilliant reports so we were really looking forward to it. Starring the fantastic Christoper Biggins (very fond childhood memories of him in the On Safari game show!) and the delectable Simon Webbe as well as regular Panto favourite Ben Nickless and a very talented cast of performers the show certainly exceeded expectations.

Before the show we were sent a visual story for visiting the Theatre Royal with clear child friendly layout and lots of photographs explaining what would happen at the theatre and during the performance. I know from my teacher training, and experience in special needs schools, how important visual aids are for children with additional needs to aid communication and manage expectations. I can imagine this brilliantly detailed guide would be immensely useful for parents and carers in preparing for the exciting event.

The theatre doors were open for the entire run of the show, with helpful and friendly staff on hand to offer assistance, meaning you could come and go freely. The lights were dimmed so rather than be plunged into darkness as the curtain rose it was a gentle easing into the proceedings which I quite liked. The audience were seated so there was plenty of space between groups which made it feel more intimate and cosy.

Chill out areas with comfy beanbags were a very popular addition to the foyer giving a great opportunity for over stimulated minds to relax. Glow sticks, rather than flashy toys, were handed out and, in my opinion, much better than twirly flashing lights. The kids loved them!

As well as all this the actors were all aware of the potentially different needs of the audience and it was all handled brilliantly and professionally with everyone feeling at ease and comfortable.
Relaxed performances are also suitable for those with babies or very young children. When the boys were babies we used to go to Baby Cinema, which is just like normal cinema but with babies! The other difference is that the lights aren’t so low, so the crawlers and toddlers are free to roam and (theoretically) the adults can enjoy the film. Noise is also tolerated as basically everyone is in same boat. I know this atmosphere was really good for me as it made a welcome change and everyone was happy.

We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed performance for so many reasons. Visiting the theatre with children can be stressful so anything that the theatres do to make things easier is fantastic in my opinion.

Aladdin finishes its run this weekend but the Theatre Royal continues to provide relaxed performances, the next being The Snowman on 28 January.

What is your experience of going to the theatre with children? Do you think the relaxed performance would appeal to you?

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