Last night at The Millennium Forum in Derry I was not only impressed with the antics and shennanigans on stage with Aladdin, the Christmas Panto 2015 but with the discovery that this years panto is indeed helping those with dementia. Not only was the Forum collecting for The Alzheimer's Society after the production, but there will be a very special showing of a specially adapted version of the panto on Friday 18th December at 7.30pm.
This is a first for theatres in Ireland. The carefully adapted version of the Forum's biggest show of the year will aim to develop a way for those customers who have dementia and their families to enjoy a stress-free trip to the theatre by removing the barriers that exist in the mainstream production.
In consultation with local organisations and the West Yorkshire Playhouse who piloted a similar scheme recently in England, the Millennium Forum plans to modify the standard production of Aladdin to provide a more inclusive and welcoming experience. This means that the auditorium house lights will be adjusted so it is softer than ususal during the performance, sound effects will be reduced, special effects during the performance will be minimized to avoid overwhelming the audience and a 'quiet space' will be offererd for those customers who need to take time away from the performance.
I'm fortunate not to have been prone to this dibilitating illness within my family to date. I hope to continue in this way for some time to come. But I, like many, have known numerous people who have not been so fortunate. Dementia affects so many around us in the modern day. It strips people of the life they knew. And it strips their loved ones of the life they knew also.
Last night I had a tear in my eye on hearing of this connection between this year's panto and The Alzheimer's Society.
So when you visit the panto this year, give what you can to this very worthy cause. Give because it will help someone who is very much less well off that you are. Give because it's Christmas time. And give because it could be 'you'!
For bookings, contact the Box Office on 71264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk. For more information on the 'DF' or 'Relaxed Performances', contact Lisa Heaney (firstname.lastname@example.org)