The impact of assisted performances – personal stories
Caption user comments
“I got tickets for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Wow, what a wonderful experience that was! From the time show began until it finished, I was enchanted. The appearance of [the lead performer] sent me wild, happy and emotional, and that is a fantastic feeling for a 71-year-old lady!!”
“The whole of the afternoon was wonderful as have all my visits to theatre with captions. You made my life worth living again. Thank you and bless you.”
“It was the first time I could follow a musical word for word. Many thanks for opening an entirely new world for us.”
“This was our first visit to the theatre since I became deafened 16 years ago. Suddenly, there I was, able to follow everything that was said.”
“It was fantastic to be able to follow everything. I didn’t have to ask my companion to explain anything.”
“Captioning has enabled me to go to the theatre with my family once more.”
Audio description user comments
“Having experienced it, it was to me an oasis in the middle of a desert as I thought theatre was barred to me for ever. Every time I go to the theatre now I really look forward to it as much as I ever did when I could see.”
“I took part in the Touch Tour and Audio Description of The Lion King … I have impaired vision, and these extra facilities made the whole experience a hundred times more enjoyable for me.”
“It makes such a difference to me actually being able to follow the plot and have the visual aspects of the play highlighted; so much more enjoyable for me, and I do not need to ask my companion questions so we can just relax and enjoy. Thank you so much for providing such a fantastic and inclusive service.”
“I would just like to let you know how much I enjoyed the audio described showing of Brief Encounter. The audio description enabled me to fully appreciate what was going on onstage. Without it I would certainly not have been able to have followed the story line.”
“I haven’t been to the theatre since [my] sight loss 6 years ago. It was something that I thought was no longer available to me, part of my former existence that was mourned, along with driving and reading, and that I resolutely refused to allow myself to miss. However, a serendipitous meeting [persuaded me] that theatre was still something that I could experience and enjoy. Tentatively, and with huge reservations, I decided to come to the touch tour and to see the audio described performance of Avenue Q. I enjoy musicals, love the Muppets and definitely needed a few laughs, so it seemed a good choice.
I arrived at the Hippodrome with … my guide dog [and] we were immediately taken backstage for the touch tour. I was surprised straight away. The area behind the stage is vast, so there was plenty of room for the five people on the touch tour, three guide dogs, two audio describers, two staff members and the … stage manager. After a brief introduction … I was able to see into the puppets’ homes, which were small rooms concealed inside the larger terraced houses of the scenery… I learnt who lived in each house – both human and monster, I could walk along the street where the action would be, feel the paving and avoid the dustbins; I was being made privy to detail that adds dimension to any story. When we had mapped the stage and understood the scenery, we got to meet the puppets. By being close up I could see the colour of clothes, the different hairstyles and feel the textures – all details which would, for me, disappear into vague, hazy shapes at a distance.
Then it was time for a drink so, with my head full of puppets and scenery and the odd little precursory bits of knowledge that the touch tour gave me, I waited to be taken to my seat. I was very excited and during this time I was given the headsets for the audio description and I learnt how to change the volume and turn them on and off. When the auditorium opened, I was shown where my seat was and [my dog] was taken away until the interval. [Assistance] dogs are supervised in the office where the theatre provides blankets and water bowls and [my dog] apparently curled up and went to sleep.
A few minutes before the show started there was an audio description introduction. The scene was being set, the stage explained and there were introductions to the characters. As this was my first performance I found this a good time to set my volume levels and to get used to the live audio description.
When the lights dimmed and the curtain went up I was transported to a small street in New York which was populated by monsters and people with everyday problems and an amusing and musical way of expressing themselves. Rather bizarrely the monsters soon became indistinguishable from their human handlers and I found myself longing for a happy ending for all of them. During the play the audio description was an extension that enabled me to understand what was happening on stage and to be included in the laughter at visual gags and it didn’t take long for me not to notice it. At the end of the show [my dog] was brought back to me. I handed back my headset, put his harness on and left.
Avenue Q was a really good show to come and see. It was very funny, totally irreverent and I loved it. The audio description was very well done and I think the fact that I soon ceased to notice it attests to that.
[I]t was a superlative experience and I cannot thank the [theatre], Avenue Q and the Audio Describers enough.
I am busy trying to decide what to come and see next.”