'Relaxed' panto shows prove a hit with families.
CHILDREN with autism are experiencing the joys of the stage through the Theatre Royal's programme of "relaxed performances".
Louise Relton's son Thomas was diagnosed with the condition when he was four years old and is among those who have enjoyed watching the Newcastle-based theatre's pantomime this January.
Louise said: "Thomas' condition means he might get very distressed during a standard performance of a show, which has always meant I had concerns as a mum about disturbing others around us.
"When we heard about Newcastle Theatre Royal working to create the relaxed performances it sounded like it would be an impossible task, but it works so well and Thomas just loved coming to the panto last year - it has become the highlight of the Christmas season for him."
Dawn Taylor, director of operations at the theatre said relaxed performances are specifically designed to welcome people with an autistic spectrum condition, learning disability or sensory and communication disorder into the theatre.
She said: "They have a less formal, more supportive atmosphere in order to reduce anxiety levels.
"At relaxed performances, the lighting and special effects are altered - for example, removing strobes and flashing lights and reducing very loud noises, but the general content of the show stays pretty much the same."
Now in its second year, the theatre's relaxed performance of the festive pantomime has been considered a success, prompting staff to introduce a relaxed performance of Shrek The Musical in March. The next relaxed performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is on January 13.