WICKED autism-friendly

The Wizard of Oz is my favourite musical/film EVER. We went to Australia to visit family in 1995 (correct me if I’m wrong mum?) and I watched this a lot apparently – so much, that when we were leaving my auntie gave me the copy of the tape, yes a videotape, to take home with me. I still remember the greyish cover which was held together only by vast amounts of tape by the time I finally parted with Savannah Stevenson and Emma Hatton in the West End production of Wicked. Photo: Matt Crockettit. I re-watched it recently and remember all the songs, all the lines, all the characters. I loved it the most because of the Wicked Witch of the West – she was so bad. Margaret Hamilton gives such a typical portrayal of the “bad guy” there was no way anyone could like her or feel remorse when she melted into a puddle of green goo. The flying monkeys, the horses that change colours, the ruby slippers, the audacity of the wizard, the lovable lion and the high-pitched munchkins and the wicked music combined made my favourite picture of all time. I used to watch it so often that Chris got into it too – he hated the Wicked Witch, when Dorothy landed in Oz and crushed the Wicked Witch’s sister he would always be so surprised and yell ‘ouch’. He would run out of the room when she was on screen and when we watch it now, he remembers which scenes she’s in and leaves before she even arrives.

It’s such a beautiful story. A girl from a loving home runs away only to find that she would do anything to find her way back. The story of 3 characters, each trying to conform or break out of the box that defines them. They follow the yellow-brick road to find that what they’ve been searching for was in them all along. Now, you can translate that into whatever you want but for me it was about loving what you have, accepting who you are and realising that the potential is infinite. When I was little it was about the magic, the escape. Now, it’s about knowing that it’s okay to be different, picking your battles and knowing that a victory is a victory no matter how small; it’s the journey that counts. Queue the violins.

The adaptations are endless – The Wiz, The Muppets, Tin Man, episodes in Once Upon A Time, Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy – and it’s timeless. Then, Hollywood made Oz The Great and Powerful where the Wicked Witch’s name was Theodora and I died.

But anyway, when I found out that there was a musical about Elphaba’s tale I was ecstatic.I saw it in London, 3 years ago today; January 27th 2012 for my birthday. Wicked has announced that it is to hold its first ever autism-friendly performance in May 2016.  West End and the National Autistic Society have collaborated to bring to theatres a performance measured and adapted to an audience on the spectrum. Sound and lighting in the performance have been altered to avoid sensory overload, there will be quiet areas, activity areas manned by trained staff where guests will be able to leave and re-enter the auditorium as needed.

“Autistic people and their families tell us that they would love to go to the theatre but
because of sensory issues are prevented from doing so. Wicked’s production team have taken great care in adapting the show which means that for some, this will be the very first time that they are able to experience the thrill of a live performance.” NAS chief executive Mark Lever.

With autism having a ratio of (more than) 1 in 100 in the UK isn’t it crazy that there are such few West End shows that people on the spectrum and their families can attend without being scrutinized by peers, shushed and tutted at?

“We’r­e delighted to be able to welcome fans of Wicked who wouldn’t normally be able to attend a standard performance, and look forward to what promises to be an inspiring experience for us all.”Wicked’s UK executive producer Michael McCabe

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, War Horse and Matilda are also staging a relaxed performance for audiences with learning disabilities.

2 thoughts on “WICKED autism-friendly

  1. Pingback: Hope in Disney | Just a boy

  2. Pingback: Hope in Disney | Just a boy

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