Relaxed spaces and performances

Relaxed spaces and performances

What is a Relaxed Performamce?

A relaxed performance is a show that’s been adapted to suit people who might require a more relaxed environment when going to the theatre. Often, these are adults or children with learning difficulties, autism or sensory communication disorders, however we’ve found that lots more people benefit from the Relaxed Performance model than traditionally expected.

Many people can find standard theatre performances overwhelming or unpleasant. Common triggers are darkness, loud music, sudden noises and a generally unfamiliar environment in which you’re expected to sit still and quiet for a long time.

To make theatre more accessible to people who might struggle with these aspects, shows will put on a relaxed performance. These do vary slightly from theatre to theatre, but share common themes.

Some technical changes may have been made to the performance – this can include quieter music, reducing loud or surprising sound effects and avoiding strobe lighting.

Whilst the show may remain very similar, the ‘rules’ of being in a theatre audience are relaxed.

The house lights on the audience won’t be turned off when the performance begins, although they might be dimmed. The audience are free to go in and out as needed and latecomers’ rules will be relaxed. Making noise or moving during the performance will not be discouraged.

There are additional staff members on hand to assist as required, and chill out areas/breakout spaces are provided for anyone who may become overwhelmed by the performance.

In addition, visual stories will be sent to all bookers in advance. These give detail on:

  • The event venue
  • Who you will meet and what they will look like – both in the theatre and in the show
  • The plot of the show
  • Anything else important to know

You can see an example of a Visual Story below.

Some theatres will also provide a social story of the theatre going experience. Social stories are short and simple descriptions of an experience that explain what to expect in a situation and why, often with photos. These can reduce the stress of theatre going and help people understand what is going to happen next.

The director, the actors and technical team on the show will also have thought carefully about what might need to change in the show so that people’s needs have been considered and specific movements or lines might be adapted slightly. They will be prepared for the possibility of more noise/movement/freedom in the audience and will not berate this behaviour.

Why is this important for arts and cultural organisations participating in This is Croydon – London Borough of Culture, to consider?

We wish to move the collective thinking beyond the boringly obvious – that access to arts in public spaces is a legal right (which of course, it is!).

Instead we aim to elevate and champion the creative quality which will be unleashed in Croydon when everybody is invited to take part.

Croydon is home to an incredibly diverse population, including a rich community of deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people.

A cultural programme which reflects Croydon authentically will drive the quality and innovation of our programme in turn, not only for disabled people, but for everybody.


Below, you will find resources to support you in making your event a Relaxed Performance and in turn more accessible to deaf, disabled and neurodiverse people. These include examples of:

  • Access Icons

    These can be used when marketing your event. These icons aim to make accessible performances/venues easily recognisable to those who require it. Events happening across London Borough of Culture – This is Croydon should be using these icons whenever they have one of the access provisions listed provided at/for their event.

  • An access coordinator role breakdown

    This document is an example of the different roles that an Access Coordinator working in a theatre company could cover. These roles should regularly be assessed and updated to consider new learning, understanding and awareness.

  • ● An Relaxed Performance – Show Info Checklist

    This checklist will help to ensure your team has considered accessibility for Relaxed Performance audiences on every show. Use this before putting on a Relaxed Performance.

  • A Zoo Co Relaxed Performance Announcement Script

    This example script is a vital part of a Relaxed Performance, and must be announced before each Relaxed Performance show. This script can be used as a starting point that can be adapted.