‘The Half Promised Land’ Newest Autism Friendly Play in Dublin’

A new production of Maeve Binchy’s 1979 play ‘The Half Promised Land’ included one relaxed performance specifically for those with an Autism Spectrum Condition or any sensory and communication disorders.

The production in February was directed by Maisie Lee and performed by the graduating students of Art and Drama at the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama.

‘The Half Promised Land’ is a story that follows two Irish school teachers, Sheila and Una, who  arrived on an Israeli kibbutz in 1966. The play explores the subjects of tolerance, belonging, mental illness, racism and abortion.

The relaxed performance differed from regular performances as there was a significant reduction in sound levels and effects, changes to the lighting (including the elimination of all strobe lighting), movements in the performance will not be as strong or as sudden as the original and the audience may exit and enter the auditorium throughout the performance.

Autistic friendly performances are quite new to Dublin: the first of these performances was ‘White’ from the Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, Scotland. It was performed in The Ark, Temple Bar’s children’s cultural centre, in 2012 as part of the Dublin Theatre Family Festival Season.

The performance of ‘The Half Promised Land’ was well put together for the particular showing, with compelling performances from all the cast, especially Jack Cavaliero and Laura Dempsey. The lowered effects did not take away from the story or the acting and maintained a professional feel regardless of the relaxed showing. The audience was made up mostly of families, who all seemed content with the play when leaving the theatre.

Although relaxed performances are new to Dublin’s theatres compared to many other European cities, most shows now offer at least one relaxed performance. This was the first relaxed performance in Smock Alley Theatre, with more hopefully on the way.


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