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The Guide to Accessible Theatres in the UK

A trip to the theatre is always a special experience, with the chance to witness acclaimed actors portraying some of the world’s best known tales always an absolute pleasure for any audience member. While many think a trip to the stage is out of reach for those with hearing difficulties, here’s our guide to some of the best venues which cater for users of digital hearing devices.

Royal Shakespeare Company
Renowned as the name which brings the works of the world’s best-loved playwright to today’s stage, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) entertains audiences throughout the year through its two venues: Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre. As part of a major renovation project at both venues, the RSC installed a hearing aid loop so patrons who rely on aids for hearing from Siemens and other manufacturers don’t have to miss any of the show. As the hearing loop is installed into the floor under every seat, you are never too far away so quality is never compromised.

The Globe
For a truly authentic experience of Shakespeare, it doesn’t get much better than a trip to Shakespeare's Globe. Standing proudly on the banks of the River Thames, it is a modern reconstruction of the original venue which was opened in association with The Bard back in 1599. When we got in touch with the theatre for this project, it’s obvious that the theatre now offers a host of accessible features:

“Since we opened our doors in 1997, Shakespeare’s Globe has been offering world-class performances, tours, workshops and lectures to visitors from around the world.

The Guide to Accessible Theatres in the UK

Both the Globe Theatre and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse have induction loops. Select performances in the Globe have open captions, whereas in the more intimate Playhouse we use close captioning on private tablets. We’re conscious that both our auditoria are unusual and unlike any other theatrical spaces in London. As such, we’re always eager to help with patrons’ individual requirements. Each theatrical season is supported by a variety of education events for all ages in our lecture theatre or at the Sackler Studios, the dedicated space for Globe Education. Each studio has its own loop system.”

Royal Exchange

Set in the heart of Manchester’s St Ann’s Square, The Royal Exchange offers performances for all ages through a packed events calendar; they provide matinees (usually Wednesdays and Saturdays) and occasionally morning performances – perfect for those who want to squeeze a show into their hectic schedule. Their endeavour to offer the most accessible experience is shown by the fact that they provide Audio Described, BSL (British Sign Language) Interpreted and Captioned Performances. To find the right show for you, be sure to tick the appropriate boxes when searching on their website.

Royal Exchange

National Theatre
Taking pride of place on London’s South Bank, The National Theatre has long been one of the capital’s favourite stage venues and its variety of productions means there’s always plenty of choice available; Treasure Island, Here Lies Love and Dara are among the most recent productions. As well as Captioned Performances, Hearing Enhancements & Headsets and Synopses, the National Theatre also allows assistance dogs inside the auditorium, and aisle seats can be offered to cater for this.

National Theatre

If you are interested in attending one of their shows, you can sign up to the free mailing list by calling 02074 523238. Alternatively, you can email them at captioninfo@nationaltheatre.org.uk.

The Ambassador Theatre Group
Made up of 39 different venues across the United Kingdom and, more recently, the United States, the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) is the largest theatre ownership collective in the UK and are responsible for many of the best known venues in the West End. As well as the award-winning shows they feature, part of the reason behind their success is down to the high standards of accessibility. Similar to the National Theatre, ATG look to provide Captioned Performances, Audio-Described Performances and Captioned Performances.

To learn more about enjoying an accessible stage experience with the Ambassador Theatre Group, click here.

Captioning Services provided by Stagetext

Among the ways in which the venues we’ve listed offer accessible theatre experiences is through captioned performances, something StageText excel in providing.

We got in touch with StageText and here’s what they had to say about their service:

Stagetext provide and support Captioning in theatres. Theatre captioning is similar to television subtitles and give people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing access to live performance. The actors’ words appear on an LED caption unit (or units), placed next to the stage or in the set, at the same time as they are spoken or sung.

Unlike opera surtitles for hearing audiences, captions include additional information such as speaker names, sound effects and offstage noises.

Timing of the captions is crucial so as not to pre-empt the actors, especially if the text involves a key punch line or joke. It is vital that the captions do not lag behind the actors because the ability of many people to hear the actors is then lost.

Captioning Services provided by Stagetext

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