Chilled-out atmosphere at special Pinocchio performances

Pinocchio cast members Hugh W Brown (Fox), Sean Kearns (Rocombollo) and Jo Donnelly (Cat)



MAC Theatre, Belfast

IT WAS a full house on Saturday afternoon at the MAC theatre in Belfast. Pinocchio was the attraction and excitement was building. But this was an afternoon with a difference because this was a special performance.

The children's theatre company, Cahoots NI, were giving one of their ‘relaxed' performances, specially designed to entertain those with sensory communication disorders, a learning disability, with Down's or on the autism spectrum.

Before the show begins, the cast introduce themselves to the audience;, some put on their costumes to show they are actors playing a part, not a scary character or creature. Sean Cairns, who plays the baddy, introduces the members of the band who each play their instrument and then romp into the loudest number from the show so when it comes to showtime no-one will be surprised or frightened.

House lights are at 50 per cent of their normal brightness and sound is also controlled so everyone feels they are in a safe environment and can enjoy the theatre experience.

At these shows, some young people like to get up and walk around and that's OK too.

As well as these relaxed performances, specially trained MAC staff travel to special schools across Northern Ireland with Theatre in the Box, a model showing the layout of the theatre, eliminating the scary elements – for instance, the dark tunnel that leads to the auditorium – all to help children understand what to expect when they visit the MAC for the first time.

These shows are only bookable by phone so the format can be explained before bookings are made.

There is a relaxed performance, signed and with audio description, on Saturday December 10 at 6pm, as well as a relaxed performance on Sunday 11 at 2pm and another at 6pm on December 18.

:: Until January 1. See; box office 028 9023 5053.

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