A CAMPAIGN has been launched to encourage Scottish theatre bosses to make the traditional pantomime season easier for autism sufferers to enjoy.

SNP MSP Mark McDonald and the National Autism Society (NAS) Scotland are calling on theatrical producers and theatres to follow the example of some venues which stage less frenetic shows, making it easier for sufferers to come and support their favourite heroes and villains.

Performances currently taking place at His Majesty's in Aberdeen, the King's in Edinburgh, its Glasgow namesake and Dundee Rep, are so-called "relaxed" performances of some of the traditional festive favouries.

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Being traditionally noisy and frenetic, pantomime is a theatrical form which is inimical to people suffering from autism and other sensory and communication disorders. Staging a relaxed performance means those who would otherwise be excluded from theatres can enjoy this very seasonal treat.

"It is great that Aberdeen Performing Arts are putting on an autism-friendly performance at His Majesty's Theatre again this year," Mr McDonald said. "The fact that similarly accommodating performances in Edinburgh and Glasgow have taken place too shows the progress being made by theatre in becoming more accommodating for people with autism.

"I am now calling on all panto organisers across Scotland to look at what we've achieved in Aberdeen to think about how they can adapt their pantomimes to allow people with autism to enjoy their show as well."

Jenny Paterson, director of NAS Scotland added her voice to Mr McDonald's plea.

"We welcome organisations such as theatres and cinemas making performances more accessible for individuals with autism," she said. "Often just turning down the volume and dimming the lights can make such a difference. At NAS we will happily advise anyone interested in adapting a show to make it more autism friendly."

Scotland's first relaxed panto performance was a production of The Snowman at the King's in Edinburgh in 2012.

Last year, the same theatre put on two performances of The Selfish Giant and on January 15 2015 it will stage a relaxed performance of this year's show, Aladdin. It will see over 600 pupils from all of the capital's 11 schools for children with additional support needs enjoying a theatre trip that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Meanwhile Aberdeen Performing Arts are staging a relaxed production of Beauty And The Beast at His Majesty's on Friday January 2 and on the morning of Wednesday January 7, the King's Theatre in Glasgow will host a relaxed performance of its show, Peter Pan.

Dundee Rep staged a relaxed production of its Christmas show James And The Giant Peach on December 6 and the theatre has said that it is actively looking at developing more productions in 2015 which are sensitive to the needs of people suffering from autism, Downs Syndrome or sensory and communication disorders. Among the other Scottish theatres also providing relaxed performances is the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh.

Most autism-friendly pantomime shows are also accompanied by downloadable visual guides. These explain that, in the words of the one accompanying the Aberdeen show, traditional panto effects such as pyrotechnics, strobes and loud noises will be removed in order to give "those who otherwise may feel excluded the chance to experience live theatre."

Relaxed performance, it continues, "have a less formal, more supportive atmosphere in order to reduce anxiety levels. There is a relaxed attitude to noise, movement and small changes to the lighting and sound levels."

Another supporter of autism-friendly performances is Elaine C Smith, who appeared in last year's Aberdeen production of Cinderella: "I remember my nephew, who has autism, coming to see me in one of my first pantos in Glasgow, and having to watch it from behind a pane of glass because the noise and the lights were quite terrifying for him," she said at the time.