Theatre News

Sensory Cinders to be staged as West End’s first inclusive sensory pantomime

The staging also marks the first production at the Studio at @sohoplace

Artwork for Sensory Cinders
Artwork for Sensory Cinders, provided by the production

Concrete Youth and Barnsley Civic have announced a pioneering production for London this autumn.

Entitled Sensory Cinders, the co-production is the first inclusive sensory pantomime specifically designed for audiences labelled with PMLD (profound and multiple learning disabilities). It is also the first piece to be performed at the Studio on the fully accessible fifth floor of @sohoplace in the West End.

Directed by Belle Streeton (who also serves as co-artistic director of Concrete Youth), the piece will feature an original score by musical director Guy Hughes and will explore themes of identity, self-expression, transformation, magic, personas, authenticity, and connectedness. It will also pose the question: what does it mean to pursue self-love and understanding in a world that doesn’t understand you?

Streeton commented: “It is a joy to be welcoming our audiences at Concrete Youth to the first-ever sensory pantomime. Pantomime is a British theatrical institution and I’m so excited that we get to be a part of the journey in making this long-standing Christmas tradition accessible to audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities. We believe it is hugely important to provide a positive cultural experience for our audiences going to the theatre, where they are ensured the full theatre experience.

“It’s been exciting to work with such well-respected organisations like the National Theatre Studio and Barnsley Civic to extend the awareness and need for sensory theatre. It’s been a great opportunity to work with artists from diverse backgrounds.

“We have assembled an extraordinary cast and creative team to re-imagine this pantomime classic, this has enabled us to thoroughly immerse ourselves in the world of a re-imagined Cinderella. It’s been thrilling taking a classic fairytale/pantomime working with drag artists, actors, musicians and sensory artists to explore disco and folk music, sensory costumes and set, transformations and magic. This pantomime has something for everybody, and I can’t wait for our audiences to see the fruits of our labour and all the love and hard work that we’ve poured into this show.”

Anthony Baker (chief executive and artistic director of Barnsley Civic) added: “All of us at Barnsley Civic are thrilled to be working in partnership with Concrete Youth and to co-produce Sensory Cinders. Concrete Youth are an outstanding company who deliver world-class work; hosting and supporting Concrete Youth on their creative journey with this work is an exciting opportunity for Barnsley Civic to be at the forefront of work created for people labelled with profound and multiple learning disabilities.”

Alongside Streeton and Hughes, the creative team includes designer Stella Backman, dramaturg Lizzie Milton, creative access consultant Phoebe Kemp, audience development and outreach specialist Annabelle Lee, production manager Isabel P, and creative producer Daniel Swift.

The production will also feature specially designed sensory materials by Henshaws Arts and Crafts, a Yorkshire-based collective supporting local learning-disabled visual artists.

Casting will be revealed in due course.

Nica Burns, owner of @sohoplace, said: “Concrete Youth’s work is groundbreaking and extraordinary and we are delighted to partner with them. They give an incredible theatre experience to those who otherwise have little or no opportunity and they do it brilliantly. I and the team at @sohoplace are delighted to welcome Concrete Youth and their audiences to our space.”

Sensory Cinders will run from 30 October to 5 November 2024, with tickets on sale now.

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