What are access performances at Polka?
Access performances are specially adapted and supported shows that can benefit audiences for any number of reasons. Primarily they offer D/deaf, Blind and visually impaired patrons, and those who may have sensory sensitivities, the opportunity to enjoy theatre that they otherwise might not be able to in a traditionally expected theatre environment.
Polka are proud to be an accessible venue and we continually review our offering to make sure as many people as possible can watch our productions or take part in Polka workshops. To support this, we currently offer a variety of adapted performances including, British Sign Language (BSL), Audio Described, Captioned and Relaxed. Each of these performances offer something unique. Elements of the show are carefully adapted to make the show accessible for specific audience members, whilst always maintaining the high standard performance experience of all Polka shows
Here is a breakdown of what you can expect from each adapted show.
British Sign Language (BSL)
These performances feature a BSL interpreter who is usually located at the side of the stage and is sometimes integrated into the performance; almost like another character. The interpreter will use British Sign Language to interpret the show live. These performances run like any other, but you should expect the addition of the BSL signer at the side of the stage.
BSL performances provide D/deaf or hard of hearing patrons with a way to access theatre using their first or preferred language of communication.
We offer BSL performances for all of our Polka productions and have an offering available for both public and school audiences. These performances are perfect for anyone of any age who would benefit from accessing theatre in this way.
Click here to see a BSL signer in action at one of our previous productions.
These performances offer a live descriptive commentary of the show. This is delivered by a professional audio describer and can be accessed through a small ear piece provided by the theatre. These performances run like any other performance but have the additional ear piece feature, which is available for blind or visually impaired patrons.
Audio Described performances also include an additional touch tour as part of their offering. This means that before the show, audience members utilising the access offering will be invited into the theatre to familiarise themselves with the characters and the set. The audio describer will describe in detail the set, costume and any additional props or puppets featured in the show. Throughout this experience the audience will be invited onto the stage to touch the items as they are being described. This is to support their sensory perception of the show they are about to see.
Touch tours are beneficial and provide blind or visually impaired patrons with the opportunity to imagine what the other audience members have visual access to. This enables the audience members to experience the show in a more informative way.
Finally, a pre-show introduction will be delivered 15 minutes before the show. This is to provide the listener with additional context and descriptive language to support their experience of the show. The pre-show introduction will also be available on the Polka website a few days before the audio described show. The Polka website uses Recite Me technology which has a multitude of accessible tools to enable all patrons to access the website – including audio to help the user navigate through to the content they need.
Audio Description services can be accessed by anyone and will not alter the show for any other audience member who does not wish to experience the show in this way.
These performances feature a digital screen located at the side of the stage, or above the actors’ heads. This screen displays live captions of the performance in English. The captions are delivered by a professional captioner who is trained to manually send the scripted words to the captioning screen in time with the action happening on stage. This includes delivery of the main script and can also be reactive to any additional improvised interactions the characters might have.
Captioned performances are suitable for D/deaf or hard of hearing patrons, for those that may find captioning useful and also for anyone who might not speak English as their first language and would therefore benefit from seeing the words on a screen like subtitles. These performances run like any other with the addition of a digital screen at the side of the stage.
We offer Captioned performances for selected productions. If you are interested in accessing theatre via captions but cannot see an available captioned performance, please contact the theatre.
These performances are physically altered for the benefits of the audience. Relaxed performances are suitable for a large variety of audience members. This can include audience members on the autistic spectrum, those with sensory sensitivities or first-time theatre goers who are nervous about how their child might respond to the theatre environment.
For these performances the auditorium lights will remain on at a low level, so the audience will never be in complete darkness. Loud sound levels, any flashing lights and haze (water vapor that looks like smoke) are often reduced or removed and the seating is sold at 50% of its maximum capacity. To encourage the relaxed environment, we welcome audience members to enter and exit the theatre space and react vocally to the performance, should they need to. For our Main Theatre productions, we provide a chill-out space which is located outside of the auditorium. The chill-out space also features a screen, so you can continue to access the show outside of the theatre environment.
Relaxed performances each come with a relaxed pack. These packs contain detailed information about the venue, the theatre space and the show itself. They feature a breakdown of everything to expect from your visit. Included in each pack is a scene breakdown, informing the reader of what to expect during each scene of the show. The breakdown includes both written descriptions and images. Relaxed packs are always available on the Polka website before the relaxed show. Find an example of a relaxed pack from a previous production here.
Relaxed performances are not like any other show, and you should expect changes to the production and the seating area. Relaxed performances are available for each of our Polka productions, including both public and school performances.
How you can attend an access performance at Polka
Polka offer a discounted rate for audience members with access requirements, and a complimentary ticket for a companion/carer. Prices vary from £9 for Adventure Theatre shows and from £10 for Main Theatre shows.
A £1.50 transaction fee applies to online and phone bookings.