A £40,000 award from a
local charitable trust will dramatically improve in the theatrical experience of visually
and hearing impaired theatregoers to RSC theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon, and on tour. New
infra-red systems, with sound proofed boxes for audio describers will be installed in the
Royal Shakespeare Theatre and for the first time in the Swan Theatre and The Other Place.
Audio describers provide a unique service to blind and visually impaired theatre-goers,
giving a live verbal commentary describing the setting, costumes, characters, facial
expressions, body language and action during the silent intervals of a performance. The
RSC's trained audio-describers relay this commentary through special headsets, alternating
with actors' voices. This vital service will now be extended to cover all three Stratford
theatres and a greater percentage of the audience, offering a wider choice of seats to
people with visual impairments and hearing difficulties. The inclusion of this facility in
the Swan Theatre and The Other Place will open up the entire RSC repertoire of
Shakespeare, classical drama and new writing to visually impaired audiences. Hearing
impaired audiences will also benefit, as enhanced sound facility will now be available in
all the Stratford venues.
The installation of the new infra-red technology will enable the system currently in
use in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to be adapted for use on tour. The RSC's Regional
Tour, which visits leisure centres and schools up and down the UK, will now be able to
extend its audio description service on the road as well as provide sound enhancement.
The special grant will also provide expert training for audio describers in voice work,
enabling them to bring to life the live action on stage in a more authentic way.
Specialist voice work is crucial in allowing visually impaired theatregoers a fuller
experience of the work of the RSC. Theatre programmes are now recorded on cassette, and
voice recordings are increasingly more popular than communication by Braille.
Tana Wolf, RSC Head of Operations said:
"This magnificent award will go a long way to improving the quality of experience
that visually impaired theatre- goers enjoy in the Royal Shakespeare Company theatres. It
will allow them to appreciate the entire RSC repertoire and, 1 hope, encourage new people
to come to see the company's work"