Same Difference production brings an all-access pantomime to West and North Yorkshire venues
Same Difference Artistic Director and Cinderella Producer, Natasha Glew, developed the idea for an all-access Christmas show when she met Access Specialist Vicky Ackroyd who worked for consultancy Totally Inclusive People, which provides interactive disability awareness and equality training.
Natasha explains: “We were commissioned to make the pantomime through Rural Arts and we saw this as an opportunity to make it an inclusive panto, working with Vicky to build in access from the very beginning. We talked about the traditions of panto, how well known and loved it is and we wanted to make it open and accessible to everyone.”
In this version of the classic tale, Cinders is a forest-loving activist who, with the help of her loyal friend Buttons, played by learning disabled performer, Alan Clay, work together to thwart a dastardly plan, created by stepsister villains Rainbow Sparkle and Starshine Sparkle to save their forest from being turned into a wellbeing centre. Promising a fun-filled, family show for everyone, Same Difference Arts has devised a classic pantomime inclusive to all, featuring an audio-captioned script, large-print programmes, touch-tour familiarization, and a quiet space and relaxation zone for audience members.
What makes this Cinderella panto such an inclusive show is the removal of physical, emotional and financial barriers. At a time where home finances are being squeezed and gloomy ‘cost of living’ headlines, many of Same Difference’s shows are free, or pay what you can afford, allowing cash-strapped families the opportunity to enjoy some festive fun.
Many of the venues on the 47-date tour are offering touch-tours and familiarisation experiences where anyone can come along and have a sensory experience before the show. In advance of the performance, audience members can meet the characters, feel the costumes and experience the smells and sounds, in order to prepare themselves for the show. Same Difference Arts hope this familiarisation and sensory experience will make the production of Cinderella more accessible for audience members with learning disabilities, autism or limited vision.
Inclusion is baked into the show as Alys Williams, Director, explains: “Audio description is written into the script, so if the cast do an action, it is described on stage. We’ve tried to have an inclusive approach to the dame in a more contemporary context, so we made a conscious step away from the body shaming jokes that don’t feel appropriate to a family show.
“We knew we didn’t want the story to be about marriage, but we discovered the enchanted juniper tree appears in the original story and our writer, Emily Feltham, weaved in the magical forest and made our Cinderella an environmentalist, who develops her voice throughout the show.
“This is a rich language panto and very sensory which is great for people who can’t always see or understand text. We also wanted to include a message for children that says you matter, that you have a voice and that your words are important (it’s also a message for grownups too!)”
The show is running at venues until January 5.
For full tour details and information about venue access check the website at https://www.samedifferencearts.com/cinderella-dates--locations.html