What is a Relaxed performance and who is it for?

Relaxed performances are adaptations of shows that have taken into consideration audience members who require different conditions to access theatre. According to the A_tistic Website 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”

These are true judgment-free zones. Letting go of the traditional expectations and “étiquette” of theatre. Everyone is free to respond, move, speak, or self-soothe in whatever way they need to enjoy and experience the performance. Imagine ‘the opposite of the quiet carriage on the train’.

What are the guidelines? And is my show a Relaxed Performance?

In order to specifically market your event as a Relaxed Performance you will need to be confident that you can meet the established expectations of a neurodiverse audience member. Failure to do so is unfair at best, and at worst could cause anxiety for the individual.

A Sensory Friendly performance adheres to most of the elements within the listed industry standard below. A Relaxed Performance does all of them.

If you are unsure of which term to use for your show. Contact Arts Access Victoria or A_tistic Theatre for a consultation. A_tistic specialise in guiding artists to create relaxed performances.

How to Create a Relaxed Performance

This is a checklist and set of guidelines from within the 2020 Melbourne Fringe Producers Guide, that lays out the industry and community standards for a Relaxed Performance.

  • Set a date and time for your Relaxed Performance and communicate this clearly.
  • Brief your performers thoroughly and discuss how the event would alter if, for example, an audience member had a loud verbal response during a quiet moment, or got up and left during an intense scene.
  • You may need to make changes to lighting and sound effects – for example taking out strobe lighting or loud sound effects, and performers may need to moderate any sudden movements or loud vocalisation.
  • House lights stay on at a low level during a Relaxed Performance to facilitate movement in and out of the audience space.
  • Provide a Relaxed Pack in advance of the performance, ideally at least one month prior. Give audience members access to as much information about the performance as you can. Some examples of things that should be in your Relaxed Pack include:
    • What audience will be permitted to do during the Relaxed Performance (e.g. stand up, leave the auditorium, make noise, clap, shout, wriggle) – be as clear as you can on what would and wouldn’t be appropriate for this particular show.
    • Clear directions to the venue, ideally accompanied by a photographic tour of the space.
    • A thorough content warning list.
    • A plot synopsis or script breakdown (if appropriate), along with a guide to where/when any particularly loud or sensory surprises may occur.
    • Pictures of the performers and a guide to what their characters are like.
  • Provide a chill out room or area, where audience members who desire a break from the noise of a performance and foyer can go before, during or after the show.
  • Ensure there is adequate Front of House support for the event to help guide audience members and provide any additional instruction if required.
  • Create clear signage for venue entrances, exits, bathrooms, the box office and any other public or safety facilities, including the ‘Chill Out’ space.
  • Where possible, introduce the performers prior to the show as to minimise the level of surprise for the audience.