The World Premiere of What I (Don’t) Know About Autism makes history tonight, Tuesday 4th of February, as the first-ever “relaxed performance” staged at Ireland’s National Theatre.

Jody O’Neill’s sometimes comic, sometimes heartbreaking journey into the world of autism is a groundbreaking production that features a cast of autistic and non-autistic actors.

Each performance of What I (Don’t) Know About Autism at the Abbey Theatre is “relaxed”. This means there will be a relaxed approach to noise during the show; house lights are kept on, rather than turned off; sound and light effects are disclosed in advance; visual aids and prompts will be highlighted throughout the performance – all supports designed to make a more inclusive theatre experience and help people with autism, intellectual, neurological and/or sensory differences enjoy the show. Audience members are also free to move about or leave the auditorium as they need.

Graham McLaren and Neil Murray, Directors of the Abbey Theatre, said: “Ireland’s National Theatre is a theatre for all the people of Ireland, and we understand that not all theatre lovers have the same needs.  For some, the traditional experience of theatre can be daunting and this trailblazing production from Jody O’Neill helps to break down some of those barriers to access. What makes the collaboration special, is not only the introduction of relaxed performances but that the structure and process around making the show has been so instrumental in the development of the project. We are delighted to partner as co-producer in bringing this remarkable story to the stage, and tremendously proud to welcome new audiences to the Abbey Theatre with our very first relaxed performances.”

Playwright and producer Jody O’Neill said: “My biggest hope for this project has always been that we could live up to the disability community mantra, ‘Nothing About Us Without Us.’ It was crucial that the project both provided a professional employment opportunity for autistic artists, and that the performances were made accessible to autistic audiences by relaxing the rules and etiquette normally associated with theatre visits. It has been incredibly heartening to see how our co-producer, the Abbey Theatre and our partner venues Mermaid Arts Centre and The Everyman have embraced and supported this ethos, and to realise the hunger audiences have for more inclusive theatre.

Relaxed Performances are the latest initiative from the Abbey Theatre which help promote accessibility within Ireland’s National Theatre. The Abbey Theatre partners with Arts and Disability Ireland to offer services for visitors who are Deaf, hard of hearing or visually impaired. These include performances that are audio described, captioned and Irish Sign Language interpreted and Touch Tours whereby blind or visually impaired patrons have access to the stage and set to handle props and costumes before a performance.

What is a relaxed performance? Here’s the cast and team of What I (Don’t) Know About Autism to tell us more.

The sold-out run of What I (Don’t) Know About Autism continues on the Peacock Stage until February 8th at the Abbey Theatre, followed by a tour to Wicklow’s Mermaid Arts Centre and Cork’s The Everyman.

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What I (Don’t) Know About Autism is funded by the Arts Council and Wicklow County Council with the support of The Everyman, the Abbey Theatre, Mermaid Arts Centre, AsIAm, Fishamble New Play Company, Rough Magic Theatre Company, KCAT and Triple A Wicklow.