The benefits of multi-sensory theatre

Sensory shows are fully immersive and encourage audience participation. Yesterday The Children’s Trust had a visit from a sensory theatre company to get everyone into the Christmas mood.

Sensory and immersive performances are fantastic for children with disabilities to enjoy. Actors move through the audience with sensory props so everyone has the opportunity to join in. One charity providing such plays is Head2Head, which tours through South London and the South East of England. Yesterday the children at The Children’s Trust (TCT) watched a lively performance of Jack and the Beanstalk. Keren, Leisure & Activities Co-ordinator in Play Services at TCT, explained the benefits of sensory theatre: “Having an outside theatre company come in is great fun. They enable the children to really immerse themselves into their imaginations. “Children are able to come out of themselves and apply the skills and experiences they are working on through rehabilitation and carry them over into everyday life.” Head2Head said: “All our shows are fully immersive. In Jack and the Beanstalk the audience experiences the growing beans with green rhythm ribbon sticks twirling around the children and young people. As Jack climbs the beanstalk the audience is wrapped in giant-size scented leaves and encouraged to hold on to thick green rope.”
Jack's mum wearing a sensory apron
The actors are trained in Makaton sign language so they can communicate with everyone in the audience. There is less dialogue than a usual play so words are replaced by sound effects, songs and colourful sets. For Jack and the beanstalk, bright and tactile costumes were worn by the actors and the children. The golden goose had a cape of soft feathers, daisy the cow had a large push button to create a mooing sound. Some children became butterflies and others were lucky enough to smell and feel the giant’s huge, stinky, woolly sock! Beet the fairy gave out bobbly vegetables, a shiny aubergine and a strong smelling piece of ginger root. A scented water spray wafted around the audience, helped the flowers grow and a rustling butterfly flew through the audience. These immersive activities encouraged the children to touch, move and smell. 
Beet the fairy
  There was music, singing and signing and instruments played throughout. Keren gave tips on introducing sensory play in the home environment: “You could do a sensory story at home using props to help tell the story that the children can touch and explore. “You could change the surroundings, in the summer go outside or pop a tent up. Sit by a river to hear the sounds. A sensory sound hunt is fun where you go for a walk and talk about what you can hear and feel. “These functional and fun activities support communication, physical, social and emotional development.”
A sensory butterfly flying around the children
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