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RSC To Improve Facilities For Visually Impaired

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"

Kate Hunter, Senior Press and Public Relations Officer  01789 412622


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CWN / Arts & Entertainment / RSC / 19 Mar 99

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