CHILDREN WHO THOUGHT they might never attend a panto because of their differing needs will find lots to love when the Helix Theatre stages three special sensory-friendly events this year.
The Dublin theatre was the first in Ireland to produce sensory-friendly pantos, and is providing three special performances of their panto Cinderella this festive season.
The sensory-friendly performances are put together so that children with different and special needs can have an enjoyable and relaxing experience with their family at the panto.
Claire Tighe, producer of the pantomime, said that the sensory-friendly panto was inspired by hearing from friends who have children who are autistic or have special needs. The theatre company got in touch with Autism Ireland and learned how to make the theatre a suitable place.
At the first event, two parents told her they hadn’t been at an event as a family since their child’s birth. “They had tears in their eyes,” she said.
“Many families with special needs children who thought they would never be able to go to the theatre are just thrilled that they can attend the pantomime together as a family at The Helix,” said Jacinta Walsh of Irish Autism Action.
What does ‘sensory friendly’ mean?
Tighe outlined how the show is different: “We keep the lights up – they don’t go dark the way they usually do in theatre. The sound is compressed so it never gets beyond a particular level, and is never too loud for the kids’ ears. We take any sudden movements out of it. Lots of shouting and high voices can frighten the kids. Any of the shouts or screams would be dulled right down, and people don’t jump onto stage suddenly. There’s a softer flow to it.”
There also won’t be any flashing merchandise available in The Helix during the sensory-friendly shows.
Above all, it’s about creating a comfortable environment where people don’t feel judged.
“It’s that welcoming feel that it’s OK if something goes wrong.”
The Helix consulted extensively with Irish Autism Action when putting together the shows. Explained Jacinta Walsh:
Because the performances are sensory-friendly everyone is aware that there are children there who may react differently and who may move around more. The Helix does a really wonderful job of ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and included and the feedback from families with special needs children is just fantastic.
Cinderella stars Mary Murray, aka Janet from RTE’s Love/Hate, as the Wicked Stepmother, RTE children’s TV presenter Megan Cassidy as Cinderella, and ITV Superstars finalist Chris Currid as her Prince Charming.
The family events will take place on December 22 at 2pm, and January 4 at 5pm, with a sensory-friendly school show January 8 at 11am.
Tickets are available on www.helix.ie or phone 01 700 7000. The cost is €25, €21(child) and from €69 (family*) Preview Dates: €18.50, €17.50 (child).