Our Considerate Performance was designed by our autistic writer, Rhi Lloyd-Williams, and is based on her knowledge and experience of autism. Here is her explanation for why relaxed performances don’t work for some autistic adults:
I like to describe The Duck as a Considerate Performance. We often hear of Relaxed Performances, and these are great for many people, but they can cause problems for those of us with additional sensory issues. They are also often loosely defined as ‘Relaxed’ with not enough information about what that actually means; should we all lie down? What if I feel tense? What if I don’t know how to relax?!
It can make the un-relaxed performances seem easier to navigate even though they may be much harder in other ways, because at least you know the rules surrounding a tense performance.
‘Relaxed’ can mean that people are free to wander around the room during the show, which those of us unable to block out visual information can find distracting. ‘Relaxed’ can mean people feel free to open their noisy packets of crisps or chat, which for someone who struggles with sounds and odours, can be difficult.
And then there are more questions; if people can move around, does that mean they can walk onto the stage or does it just mean you can move in your seat? What if someone else stands in front of me, am I allowed to ask them to move if the rules say that they are allowed to walk about? Too many variables means uncertainty and uncertainty can make people feel anxious.
Relaxed Performances are fantastic and open up the theatre to many people who would otherwise not be able to access it, but is ‘Relaxed’ too vague a term, and too broad an idea? Is it something that was designed for children that has been adapted for adults, instead of something designed for adults specifically?
I believe that accessibility for autistic adults is about giving choice, autonomy and respect to everyone. It’s not necessarily about making the space perfect for everyone – in fact I don’t believe that’s possible, we will always have different, sometimes even conflicting needs, but what we can do is give you control over choosing what is right for you.
The Duck does not claim to be a safe space for autistic people, because I don’t believe that’s something any space could ever claim to be. However we do claim to be an understanding space and a space where you are safe to be yourself.
You can find out more about how our considerate performance works on our Performance Accessibility Information page
Rhi Lloyd-Williams writes about autism on her website Autistrhi.com and works as a public speaker and trainer on autism, as well as being a poet and playwright