Call to roll-out autism friendly pantos across Scotland

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The staging of an autism friendly panto in Aberdeen is an innovation that should be adopted across Scotland, according to campaigning MSP Mark McDonald.

The SNP MSP says many autistic children are missing out on the Christmas tradition because shows are often too loud and bright for them. Earlier this year Mark McDonald helped to secure a relaxed performance of this season’s panto Cinderella at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen.

Now Mr McDonald has called on production companies to follow the lead of Aberdeen Performing Arts and Qdos Entertainment and put on autism-friendly performances in other parts of the country.

Autism-friendly performances include subduing of pyrotechnics, strobe lighting and other loud noises, a more relaxed and informal atmosphere with support on hand for any audience members who may become anxious.

Panto legend Elaine C Smith who is currently performing in Aberdeen gave Mark her endorsement during the Donside by-election and has applauded the fact there would be an autism friendly panto in Aberdeen, saying:

“I am delighted to be a part of this show. I remember my nephew, who has autism, coming to see me in one of my first pantos in Glasgow, and having to watch it from behind a pane of glass because the noise and the lights were quite terrifying for him. I realised then that there were some parts of the panto which were not suitable for children with sensory challenges.

“I was delighted when I saw that this show was taking place, and I think it is a fantastic idea. I am sure it will not make any difference to us as performers as we will just be putting on the very best show we can, and hopefully the kids will love it!”

Mr McDonald, who is an active campaigner on autism issues, said:

“Everyone should be allowed to go to the ball, which is why I am calling on all organisers to think about how they can adapt their pantomimes to allow people with autism to enjoy their show as well.

“I am delighted His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen is hosting a special performance of their pantomime this year which will provide a less formal and more supportive atmosphere for the audience.

“The fact an estimated 50,000 people in Scotland have autism highlights why we need more autism-friendly shows to allow all families across Scotland to be able to celebrate the festive season by attending a pantomime.

“All it takes is small but important adjustments to make the joy of theatre as inclusive as possible and I hope to see many more organisers follow in Aberdeen’s lead.”

Cinderella runs from November 30 to January 5 at His Majesty’s Theatre with the relaxed performance taking place at 1pm on January 3. Further details can be viewed at http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/news/panto-organisers-wave-magic-wand-for-relaxed-performance-200