Rob reveals delight as Alnwick Playhouse offers audio-described support for the first time

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An Alnwick theatre-lover has become the first blind person to take in an audio-described show at the town’s playhouse.

Rob Davies enjoyed a performance of the panto by Alnwick Theatre Club with a little help from professional audio describer Caroline Burn who delivered the story, via bluetooth, from the techies box.

Rob, 80, who is totally blind, said: “I love theatre, but I get very frustrated when I cannot follow what is going on on the stage.

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"I thoroughly enjoyed Dick Whittington with audio description delivered to my headphones by Caroline, who normally does this for the big theatres all around England.”

Rob and Catherine Davies with Jimmy Dodds of Alnwick Theatre Club.Rob and Catherine Davies with Jimmy Dodds of Alnwick Theatre Club.
Rob and Catherine Davies with Jimmy Dodds of Alnwick Theatre Club.

As an extra perk, Rob and his wife, Catherine, were given a backstage ‘hands-on’ guide to a lot of the costumes and props and had the various scenery and lighting explained to them.

Theatre audio description enables blind and visually impaired people to experience and enjoy a performance on an equal basis, with friends and family or independently. It takes the form of a live commentary which provides information on the visual elements of a production as it unfolds.

It describes action that is essential to an understanding of the performances story, as well as other visual information such as the style and design of the production, facial expressions, visual jokes and dancing that a blind or visually impaired member of the audience might otherwise miss.

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The description is delivered live in the gaps between the dialogue by a describer, broadcast using infrared, radio or WiFi and picked up by the audience member wearing a special lightweight receiver.

Caroline Burn.Caroline Burn.
Caroline Burn.

Audio describer Caroline, who hails from Alnwick and works for Talking Theatre, said: "We are delighted to be working with Alnwick Playhouse to provide access performances for the popular productions by local theatre groups and visiting companies.”

Catherine, 75, who also has failing eyesight, said: “It is great that museums and theatres are recognising that this is as much about accessibility for visually impaired people as wheelchair ramps are for others.”

“Rob and I both read all our books, downloaded onto our iPhones, from RNIB or Audible. We really appreciate most technology, as it help with everyday life, with the exception of ‘Shared Spaces’ on roads and silent electric cars.”

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Caroline is also set to deliver audio descriptions at upcoming performances of Cinder Path (February 5) Grease (February 16) and Oklahoma (March 21).

“My wife and I have already bought our tickets,” said Rob.