Friendly Fireworks

The participation within theatre can be complex for young people with autism and sensory needs. Will the sound and lighting create a sensory overload? Will there be a quiet space to go to if someone feels overwhelmed? Will the way in which the play is presented be ‘readable’? Does the young person know what to expect when going to the theatre?

And so many more questions.

Theatres are increasingly providing ‘relaxed performances’ specifically to accommodate those who may find the audience experience difficult or daunting, specifically for members with autism and learning disabilities. We very much applaud and are a part of this development, however with this comes the reinforcement of a space for disabled people and a space for non-disabled people; the full experience and an adapted version.

Our venture is to test and explore the parameters and truly inclusive potential that theatre can offer. Can a performance be made that is suitable for young people with autism and their families and young people without autism and their families, with the relaxed elements being worked into the tapestry of the performance? The changes made aren’t to a finished product, but are incorporated as the product is created through engagement and co-production between those with autism and services which support them. There is one outcome created that is accessible, engaging and stimulus for both children with and without autism.

We have been given the rights by Phillip Pullman to adapt his sparkling novel, The Firework Maker's Daughter through an R&D process with young people with autism and their families. Throughout 2019 we will be running workshops on music, storytelling and projection mapping to create our adaptation.