Some will count down days to their birthday or Christmas or maybe their holiday but my brother Kieran had been waiting for this day to come since May 2014. This event is much more fun than Christmas in Kieran’s eyes. The event? Going to see The Lion King in the West end.
Kieran often refers to it as ‘The Lion King live’ and talks a lot about the songs he will hear and what happens in the show. I’ve written about my brother in previous blog posts and mentioned that obviously he the most fantastic person I know but because of his autism sometimes he has faced challenges. One of the big challenges was being able to go to live events whether it be theatre or music. Audience members often expect silence from other audience members in order to hear what is going on the stage.
But that’s not Kieran’s style. Not when you can react vocally to the performance! And sometimes it can get uncomfortable to sit in a seat too long or sometimes it gets exciting so Kieran likes to bounce in his seat.
These typical social norms of going to see live performance aren’t laid out as rules when it comes to relaxed performances or autism-friendly performances. These performances will be altered to suit the audience. Those with autism may be sensitive to light and sound and so these are altered in order for the audience to enjoy the performance.
I became fascinated with the concept and so I based by undergraduate dissertation on the relaxed performance and how it has so many benefits for people on the autism spectrum. The Lion King on the 30th August was the first relaxed performance I had been to since writing the dissertation and it opened my eyes even more than ever before.
Families with autism are actually able to enjoy a day out together with minimal stress. That is a big deal. Not only that but many families in one auditorium get to see that they’re not alone on this journey. Now that’s an even bigger deal.
I could preach about it all day. I’m not sure if I’ve been so moved by this performance than I have any other time. Not just because of the joy on everyone’s face but also because Mufasa dies and that’s pretty horrendous still. (I now cry when the stampede music starts!)
Arts and leisure activities should be for everyone end of. And these relaxed performances? Well Hakuna Matata! It means no worries.