Making Regeneration accessible
Making Regeneration accessible
Thursday, 23 October 2014
What processes are involved in making a show accessible to all audiences? Young Reporter Madison Wales talks to Tina Wright M.B.E. on audio describing Regeneration.
On Saturday 18th October 2014, I attended the audio described performance of Regeneration at Theatre Royal Nottingham. Prior to the performance, I had the opportunity to interview Tina Wright M.B.E., audio describer for this performance and gain an insight into the logistics behind audio description.
Tina is a remarkable women, she received an M.B.E. for her services to education as a drama teacher, it was only with her retirement that she decided to train as an audio describer as part of the National Lottery awarded ‘See-A-Voice’ scheme. Tina made something very clear to me immediately upon meeting her: that the arts, particularly the theatre, are in her blood. She married a playwright and her son is a director. Tina’s passion for her vocation is inspiring, evident not only upon this meeting, but throughout the whole day and performance.
Audio description is an art in itself, you are not allowed to speak when the actors speak, and in a heavily vocalised play like Regeneration, that can make things difficult, meaning you have to nip in with short excerpts of information wherever possible. Prior to the performance, the audio describer is given three tools to work with: the first, seeing the play itself and making detailed notes upon the characters, costume and set, second, the script, and finally, a DVD to help with the timing. It takes about one week for Tina to fully prepare for an audio described performance!
Before the performance, those attending are taken on what is called a ‘Touch Tour’. This gives them an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the set, costumes, and even the actors voices. The fantastic thing about this opportunity is that it is free of cost (although you must ensure you do book prior to the performance) and guide dogs are even allowed on stage, which I’m told can cause havoc at times, however, in my experience it just added to the fun!
Tom Maley, who lost his sight aged two, is religious in attending touch tours, however, he is sceptical over their usefulness. Tom stated: "there is a difference between those who have been able to see, and those who never have been able to". Touch tours are very much a memory game, and if you do not have the memory to be able to re-create the scene on stage, its usefulness is questionable. Tom inspirationally approaches each performance as if it is a radio play, and although he is unable to use his memory to re-create the scene on stage, he is a regular attendee at the Theatre Royal and always find the touch tours an enjoyable experience, believing that it "sets you up for the theatre experience".
"there is a difference between those who have been able to see, and those who never have been able to"
Another audience member participating was Grahame, who lost his sight much later on in life than Tom and finds the touch tour an invaluable asset. I sat next to Grahame throughout the performance and was able to appreciate just how empowering the audio described performance is to someone who is visually impaired. For Grahame, audio description is a selling point and a very useful tool when dealing with large casted performances.
As a daughter of a woman who is partially deaf I have attended signed performances at theatres all over the country, therefore I am no stranger to the fantastic work that theatres, especially the Theatre Royal Nottingham, do to ensure maximum engagement with every single member of the audience. It is inspirational to see those who deal with great obstacles in their day to day, not letting their condition determine whether they are able to attend the theatre. It just goes to show that even if you’re hard of hearing or visually impaired, you’re able to be as passionate for the arts as every single other member of the community who walks through those iconic Theatre Royal columns.
Regeneration premiered on 2 September 2014 at Royal & Derngate, Northampton. It is touring to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.
Regeneration premiered on 2 September 2014 (previews from 29 August) at Royal & Derngate, Northampton, where it continues until 20 September 2014. It then tours to York, Edinburgh, Bradford, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Richmond, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Blackpool where it concludes on 29 November.