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Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds on a mission to be more accessible to people with disabilities



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The UK's only working Regency theatre, based in Bury St Edmunds, is on a mission to become accessible to all.

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, in Westgate Street, has added accessibility features in performances across the year, lower than average ticket prices, and adaptations to the building to allow those with accessibility needs to come to the theatre.

This year the theatre has 21 performances with captions. Similar to subtitles, captioned performances have spoken words and sound effects shown on screens at either side of the stage in real-time.

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds is on a mission to become more accessible to all. Picture: Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds is on a mission to become more accessible to all. Picture: Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

The theatre also has British sign language performances with a BSL interpreter on stage, signing throughout the production, and for those with hearing aids, hearing loops are available in the box office, bar and throughout the auditorium.

Audio described performances allow audience members who are visually impaired or blind to experience the theatre through the sound stage, as movements and actions are described through real-time commentary on personal headphones.

These performances are often accompanied by a touch tour of the stage and set prior to the performance which can be booked through the box office.

Audio described performances and relaxed performances are just some of the ways the theatre has become more accessible. Picture: Tamika Green
Audio described performances and relaxed performances are just some of the ways the theatre has become more accessible. Picture: Tamika Green

Owen Calvert-Lyons, artistic director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, said: "I want to be looking at how we support people in our community, how we spread the message of the theatre beyond our walls, beyond Bury St Edmunds and out into the county more – that is central to what I want to do.

"We don’t want anyone to feel excluded from theatre and the arts so having accessible performances is vital in enabling people with access needs the ability to enjoy theatre, music and all we have to offer at Theatre Royal."

The Regency style auditorium has four wheelchair accessible boxes with same level bar and toilet access. There are also spaces for guide dogs and refreshments for dogs is provided.

Complimentary carer tickets are also offered, at the theatre's discretion, to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend without the help of their carer.

These tickets must be booked through the box office rather than on the website.

Relaxed performances are performances where changes are made to the show to allow for a more informal experience. Sound and lighting levels are reduced; pyrotechnics, flashing lights, and other surprising elements are removed; and the auditorium lights will stay on during the performance.

The show also begins with an introduction to the characters, explaining any elements which may be unfamiliar to some, and a brief description of the story and events which will happen during the performance.

Relaxed performances are intended for people with autism and dementia, although open to all guests. The theatre's annual relaxed performance is Saturday, January 8 2023 at 5pm.

The theatre also hosts accessible classes and workshops through community groups, projects, and across schools, including their youth theatre non-verbal sessions centred around building confidence, making friends and engaging in non-verbal creative-play.

These sessions are supported by GeeWizz Charitable Foundation, Bury Town Council and The St Edmunds Trust. The sessions run for 8 to 12-year-olds and 13 to 18-year-olds every Tuesday between 4pm and 5.40pm at Theatre Royal.

Theatre Royal access performances for 2022 are:

  • The Secret Garden - every performance is captioned from the beginning to the end of the run from Friday 19 August 19 to Saturday, September 3. Touch tour and Audio Description performance is Saturday, August 27 at 7pm.
  • Time and Tide: Captioned performance - Wednesday, October 5 at 7.30pm.
  • The Legend of Robin Hood (pantomime): BSL performance on Wednesday, December 7 at 7pm. Captioned performances: Sunday, January 8 at 1pm. Relaxed performance: Sunday, January 8 at 5pm. Audio described and touch tour: Saturday, January 14 at 7pm.