What is a sensory relaxed performance?

A sensory relaxed performance offers support resources and accommodations to make live theatre more welcoming and accessible for autistic and neurodivergent audience members. The relaxed, welcoming nature of the show also welcomes patrons with learning, communication or movement needs, sensory sensitivities, anxiety, or those who would benefit from a less formal theatre environment. Some people may struggle with the conventions of a traditional theatre going experience, such as the need to sit still and quietly in the dark theatre for a long time, and would be more comfortable attending a sensory relaxed show.  

How is a sensory relaxed performance different?

The most important aspect of a sensory relaxed performance is that everyone participating in the show experience, including the audience, actors, backstage crew, and front-of-house team, is each responsible for making the show ‘relaxed’ and welcoming. Everyone taking part in the show understands that a sensory relaxed performance is all about inclusion and acceptance. There may be more movement and noise during the show – and that it is perfectly all right. Everyone is invited to relax and express themselves as they need to, without worrying about distracting or bothering others because everyone agrees to be themselves and to enjoy the experience together.  

Will this still be the same show?

During this sensory relaxed performance, the audience doors are left open and the audience lights are left on low to keep the theatre from being totally dark. The story, characters, stage lights and sound are unchanged from our standard performances. From the moment the show starts to the moment the show ends, the performance onstage is the same. Instead, resources are available to support audience members and make the show more accessible.  

Who is a sensory relaxed performance for?

Sensory relaxed performances are for everyone. They are especially welcomed by those who would benefit from a laid-back and inclusive environment. Most people want to experience the performance on offer the way it is intended to be presented. This means that we aim to include sensory accommodations without changing the quality or nature of the show itself. 

What resources are available?

  • Show specific resources detailing the plot, action, and surprises in the show, as well as how long the show is and if there is an interval. These resources are available shortly before the sensory relaxed performance on our Accessibility page 
  • A pre-show demonstration. Taking place 90 minutes before the performance, the pre-show demonstration welcomes patrons into the theatre to check out the lights, sound, and technical elements of the show. Surprises and startling show moments will be demonstrated so patrons know what to expect during the show. They may also have a chance to meet the show’s actors. 
  • Early seating is available for audience members who prefer to take their seats ahead of the crowd entering the theatre, and patrons are welcome to wait in their seats after the show and exit after the crowd has left 
  • Theatre audience lights will be left on low so the space is not entirely dark during the show 
  • Audience are welcome to use fidget toys, headphones, sunnies, weighted blankets, or other comfort items in the theatre. They are also welcome to come and go and take breaks during the show 
  • A pre-show announcement reminding the audience that during the sensory relaxed show, patrons are welcome to be themselves. The whole audience is invited to participate in creating a welcoming, judgement free atmosphere 

Why is ATC putting on a sensory relaxed show?

Going to a theatre can be an overwhelming experience. Crowding in the lobby and lines to pick up tickets, loud volume, and sudden bursts of sounds, along with dark theatre lighting can all be sensory overload triggers that prevent some from ever experiencing the magic of live theatre. By introducing sensory relaxed performances, we hope to provide a safe space for people to be who they are and enjoy a performance that is tailored to their needs. As part of ATC's commitment to make theatre accessible to all, we are launching a trial sensory relaxed performance of O le Pepelo, le Gaoi, ma le Pala’ai | The Liar, the Thief, and the Coward 

Can I book an access ticket?

Yes. $20 access tickets are available for neurodivergent audience members for sensory relaxed shows. One $20 companion ticket is also available. Find out how to book access tickets

Will I be distracted by other audience members during the sensory relaxed show?

Audiences have noise and movement during every show, and we’re generally only distracted by something if we think it’s not allowed or causing a disturbance. We find that because the whole audience knows that the usual theatre etiquette is relaxed for this show, patrons able to enjoy welcoming atmosphere without being distracted.  

I’ve never been to a live theatre performance before. How do I know if I’m going to like it?

We strive to give you as much information as possible about the show, so you can decide if the experience is right for you. During the performance, if you are overwhelmed or need a break, a breakout space will be available for relaxing. Our theatre staff are available to answer questions and offer help. Online resources before the show and the pre-show demonstration will let you know about surprises and startling moments, and give you the information you need to decide if the show is right for you. This sensory relaxed show has been created in collaboration with autistic consultants, and if you have any specific access needs, questions, or concerns, please get in touch with us by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 282 849.

I’ve never been to the ASB Waterfront Theatre before. How will I know what to expect?

Online information about what to expect at the theatre can be found at our Your Visit page. 

I have sensory sensitivities. Do you provide ear defenders, sunglasses, or other comfort items?

We can’t provide ear defenders, sunglasses, or other comfort items, and we invite you to bring your own. We recommend you bring any comfort items or fidget toys you need to feel comfortable. 

Where should I sit?

Step-free access, and wheelchair spaces, are available upon request – simply give our box office a call on 0800 282 849 and we can assist with reserving these spots. You will sit in the seat that matches your ticket. You can come and go from the auditorium as you please if you’re sitting in the Stalls or Circle. 

Are babies allowed in sensory relaxed performances?

Yes – babies are welcome. Those under the age of 18 months are welcome to sit on your knee – please contact us at [email protected] once you’ve booked your ticket to let us know you’ll be bringing a child with you. Buggies will not be permitted inside the auditorium. Our front-of-house staff will help with making sure your buggy is kept secure during the performance.