Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds is the UK’s only working Regency theatre and part of the National Trust portfolio at over 200-years old with the restored Grade 1 listed building as its home since 1819. Theatre Royal have made it their mission to make theatre accessible for all with added accessibility features in performances across the year, lower than the UK average ticket prices and adaptations to the building giving those with access needs the ability to come to the theatre and feel welcome.
“I want to be looking at how we support people in our community, how we spread the message of the theatre beyond our walls, beyond Bury St Edmunds and out into the county more – that is central to what I want to do. We don’t want anyone to feel excluded from theatre and the arts so having accessible performances is vital in enabling people with access needs the ability to enjoy theatre, music and all we have to offer at Theatre Royal.” Owen Calvert-Lyons, Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
This year, Theatre Royal has twenty-one performances with captions – similar to subtitles, captioned performances have spoken words and sound effects shown on screens at either side of the stage in real-time. The theatre also has British Sign Language performances with a BSL interpreter on stage signing throughout the production and for those with hearing aids, hearing loops are available in the box office, bar and throughout the auditorium.
Audio Described performances allow people who are visually impaired or blind to experience theatre through sound as stage movements and actions are described through real-time commentary via personal headphones. For a deeper experience, these performances are often accompanied by a touch tour of the stage and set prior to the performance, arranged through the box office.
The Regency style auditorium has four wheelchair accessible boxes with same level bar and toilet access. Peter Fuller, seventy year old of Vinery Road, recently mentioned Theatre Royal as going ‘out of their way to accommodate people in wheelchairs’ (By Kevin Hurst, Bury Free Press). Spaces for guide dogs and dog refreshments are also available in the theatre. Complimentary carer tickets are offered, at the theatre’s discretion, to people who wouldn’t be able to attend a performance without the help of a carer making performances accessible to as many people as possible. These tickets must be booked via the box office rather than on the website.
Theatre Royal offers a huge range of performances throughout the year ranging from stand-up, music, drama and musicals with much more in-between. Dead Good, performed in February 2022, is a poignant show celebrating friendship telling the story of two people meeting and connecting in a hospice at difficult times in their lives. This show was performed entirely without words opening it up to those with hearing impairments, deafness and language barriers.
Relaxed performances are performances where changes are made to the show to allow for a more informal experience. Sound volumes and lighting levels are reduced to soften their impact; pyrotechnics, flashing lights, and other surprising elements are removed; and the auditorium lights will stay on during the performance. In addition to these changes, the show begins with an introduction to the characters, explaining any elements which may be unfamiliar to some, and a brief description of the story and events which will happen during the performance.
The Relaxed Performances are intended to be dementia and autism-friendly but the team aims to accommodate all guests’ needs as much as possible: seats can be booked in a manner which allows groups their own space and the audience is encouraged to move around as they feel necessary. Talking and noises from the audience is expected during these performances. Theatre Royals’ annual relaxed performance is Sat 8th January 2023 at 5pm.
Theatre Royal hosts accessible classes and workshops in the theatre, via community groups and projects and across schools including our youth theatre non-verbal sessions centred around building confidence, making friends and engaging in non-verbal creative-play. These sessions are supported by GeeWizz Charitable Foundation, Bury Town Council and The St Edmunds Trust. The sessions run for 8-12s and 13-18s every Tuesday between 4pm and 5:40pm at Theatre Royal.
Theatre Royal is keen to welcome more audiences with access needs to the theatre. If you belong to a group or run a group with access needs, please do get in touch with [email protected] as additional access performances may be able to be arranged.
Theatre Royal access performances for 2022 are as follows:
- The Secret Garden: Every performance is captioned from the beginning to the end of the run Fri 19th August – Sat 3rd Touch tour and Audio Description performance is Sat 27th August at 7pm
- Time and Tide: Captioned performance Wed 5th Oct at 7:30pm
- The Legend of Robin Hood (pantomime): BSL performance on Wed 7th Dec at 7pm. Captioned performances: Sun 8th Jan at 1pm. Relaxed performance: Sun 8th Jan at 5pm. Audio described and touch tour: Sat 14 Jan at 7pm.