Friday, 29 July 2011

A very Wicked show...

The case of the Autistic 12year old boy who was asked to leave a London theatre this week was very unfortunate for many reasons. Firstly, because young Gregor Morris was clearly enjoying the performance of 'Wicked' after a long trip south from Moray. Secondly, because it was not any audience member, but a lighting crew operator who was supposedly disturbed by Gregor's enjoyment of the show. And thirdly, because the Apollo Victoria and the Ambassador Theatre Group which runs this venue appear to really have missed a trick by allegedly being so autism-unfriendly.

I'm sure this sort of thing has happened much more often than is ever reported ( certainly to me and my son in the past) and that's a real shame as it deprives our children and all folks with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder of a chance to experience live shows and even cinema and the obvious pleasure these trips can bring. The very obvious distress and humiliation of being asked to leave the theatre is evident on Gregor's father's Facebook page account of their experience at the hands of the staff and management of the Apollo Victoria theatre.

The Ambassador theatre group are investigating this incident, and therefore won't comment until their investigation is complete. But what an opportunity this could be for them to lead the way with Autism-friendly performances of their shows, just like many cinemas already do quite regularly. Such performances would be great for enabling folks with autism to experience live theatre and great for their carers who would be able to relax and enjoy the shows free from the fear that their charges might inadvertently disturb any other of the theatre patrons.

The Ambassador group has venues all over the country, including here in Scotland. Might they take the opportunity to lead the way with special Autistic-friendly performances, and in doing so, win the friendship, thanks, and custom of the autism-affected community nationwide?

Time will tell, of course..

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:


    We deeply regret any upset caused to the Morris family and would like to apologise for their bad experience last month at the Apollo Victoria in London.

    We are grateful to them for highlighting an issue that goes to the very heart of our company’s mission to provide an excellent experience for all our patrons. We firmly believe that everyone has the right to access live theatre, regardless of ability or disability, and we especially welcome children and young people.

    However, we must clarify two points of fact which have been overlooked in much of the coverage of this story.

    - The sound engineer did not complain about Gregor Morris, but merely alerted venue staff that there was a disturbance in the auditorium as she was concerned that someone was ill.

    - At no time were the Morris Family asked to leave the theatre. Mr Morris and his son left of their own accord, leaving his wife and daughter to watch the rest of the performance.

    ATG firmly believes that no patron should ever be asked to leave one of its theatres as a direct consequence of their disability. In this instance, whilst the staff concerned did not actually ask the family to leave, the way in which the situation was handled clearly resulted in the family feeling that they had no option. This is wholly unacceptable and we have apologised unreservedly for the distress caused to the Morris family.

    Whilst we have a comprehensive access policy and training programme, this incident has naturally caused us to review both to ensure that our training model is fit for purpose. This is underway now. We work with a number of disability organisations on an ongoing basis and will be seeking further advice from them as to how we can improve our staff training.

    ATG’s Joint CEO and Head of Learning and Access have both been in regular contact with Mr Morris and we are now working towards a positive outcome, including looking at ways of raising awareness of the needs of visitors with disabilities including in theatres nationally, and improving our practice through engaging with charities who specialise in this field.

    Ambassador Theatre Group