Pantomimes 'can be autism friendly'

Elaine C Smith has backed a politician's plea for pantomime producers to put on autism-friendly showings of their performances.

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Elaine C Smith performs as Fairy Flora McDonald in Jack And The Beanstalk

Elaine C Smith has backed a politician's plea for pantomime producers to put on autism-friendly showings of their performances.

Her autistic nephew found it "quite terrifying" when he saw her in one of her first pantomimes, she said.

The actress and comedian said she is delighted to be taking part in a special version of Cinderella, in Aberdeen, which is designed for people with autism spectrum conditions, learning disabilities or sensory and communication disorders.

The show will have more subdued lighting and sound, with a more informal atmosphere, and support is on hand for any audience members who become anxious or distressed during the performance.

SNP MSP Mark McDonald is now calling for more pantomime performances to be adapted for people with autism.

"The fact an estimated 50,000 people in Scotland have autism highlights why we need more autism-friendly shows to allow all families across Scotland to be able to celebrate the festive season by attending a pantomime," he said.

"All it takes is small but important adjustments to make the joy of theatre as inclusive as possible and I hope to see many more organisers follow in Aberdeen's lead."

The Aberdeen Donside MSP, who campaigns on autism, said: "Everyone should be allowed to go to the ball, which is why I am calling on all organisers to think about how they can adapt their pantomimes to allow people with autism to enjoy their show as well.

"I am delighted His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen is hosting a special performance of their pantomime this year which will provide a less formal and more supportive atmosphere for the audience."

Smith said: " I am delighted to be a part of this show. I remember my nephew, who has autism, coming to see me in one of my first pantos in Glasgow, and having to watch it from behind a pane of glass because the noise and the lights were quite terrifying for him.

"I realised then that there were some parts of the panto which were not suitable for children with sensory challenges.

"I was delighted when I saw that this show was taking place, and I think it is a fantastic idea.

"I am sure it will not make any difference to us as performers as we will just be putting on the very best show we can. And hopefully the kids will love it."