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Lion King stages relaxed performance

Published 4 March 2014

Disney’s hit musical The Lion King will present its second autism-friendly performance in May, following the success of its first specially adapted performance last year.

Taking place on 4 May, the performance, along with the booking process and theatre environment, will be modified in order to make the experience more suitable for those affected by the spectrum condition.

The much-loved production about a young lion prince who is tricked into thinking he is responsible for his father’s death has been playing at the Lyceum Theatre since 1999.

Working closely with the National Autistic Society, the Walt Disney Company has reduced jarring sounds and strobe lighting during the performance, and trained cast members and front of house staff on the needs of an autistic audience. There will also be designated quiet and activity areas staffed by autism experts in the theatre foyer for those who need to leave their seats during the show.

Talking about the National Autistic Society’s work on bringing the forthcoming performance to fruition, the society’s chief executive Mark Lever said: “Under usual circumstances, a trip to the theatre would simply be impossible for some families. But training staff and making adjustments to the performance and theatre environment can make a huge difference. Following the success of last year’s performance, we’re delighted to continue our work with Disney so that more people affected by autism can access the entertainment opportunities that many of us take for granted.”

Lizi Jackson, a mother who attended The Lion King’s first ever autism-friendly performance with her son in April 2013, said of the experience: “For a few hours, our children and family members were free to be themselves and to behave however they needed to, without fear of judgement or retribution. For a few hours, we did not feel the need to apologise for our own children. For a few hours, no-one felt they had to explain anything. For a few hours we had no worries. Hakuna Matata.”

Disney’s The Lion King is just one of the shows offering a performance of this kind in the capital in the coming months. Shakespeare’s Globe will hold a relaxed performance of The Merchant Of Venice on 15 March, while the Unicorn Theatre has several shows providing specially adapted performances in March and April.

Tickets for Disney’s The Lion King’s autism-friendly performance are available from www.lionkingautismfriendly.co.uk, and details of how to book for the Globe and Unicorn shows can be found on the venue websites.

Disney’s The Lion King is also eligible for the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award at this year’s Olivier Awards with MasterCard. To vote for your favourite long-running show visit the Olivier Awards website by 17:00 today.

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