A relaxed performance of  Hansel & Gretel is the first in an Arts Centre Melbourne pilot program for children with disabilities

Arts Centre Melbourne will become the first arts venue in Victoria to host a “relaxed performance” specifically designed for children with Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorder or sensory and communication disorders.

Arts Centre Melbourne in partnership with Victorian Opera will present a relaxed performance of Hansel & Gretel at Fairfax Studio on June 17. The now fully-booked performance is the first in a wider disability access pilot program funded by $80,000 in donations from The Lorenzo and Pamela Galli Charitable Trust and the Cassandra Gantner Foundation.

The performance will provide a relaxed environment, with elements of the production adapted to reduce anxiety or stress. Lighting and sound levels will be adjusted to soften their impact, there will be relaxed attitude to noise and moving around the auditorium during the performance and designated ‘chill-out’ areas outside the auditorium to use if being in the auditorium becomes overwhelming. Each performer will be introduced at the beginning before getting into character, and none will wear makeup. A narrator will also help explain the story.

The disability access pilot also features a relaxed session of Terrapin Puppet Theatre’s I Think I Can for children on the Autism spectrum in October, an immersive work created specifically for young audiences with disabilities and increased opportunities for hearing-impaired audiences to attend Arts Centre Melbourne performances. I Think I Can is a free interactive installation where participants navigate a large-scale model railway with a miniature puppet. Arts Centre Melbourne is working with Arts Access Victoria to develop all works in the pilot. In addition to the relaxed performance Arts Centre Melbourne and Victorian Opera will offer audio described performances and tactile tours of the production.

Arts Centre Melbourne’s Learning & Access Programs Manager Hannes Berger said he hoped the program would develop more inclusive practices to programming.

“The relaxed performance not only presents an opportunity to present a work to children with disabilities but to work with Victorian Opera to develop the work for those children,’’ Mr Berger said.

An evaluation of the pilot will be used to inform development of future programming and opportunities for audiences with special needs.

Victorian Opera and Arts Centre Melbourne present
Hansel & Gretel
Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
Relaxed performance Tuesday 17 June
Audio described performance Saturday, 21 June, 11.30am
Tactile Tour Saturday 21 June, 10.45am
General public show Saturday 21 June 11.30am, 2.30pm, 5pm