We offer an audio described performance for each Coliseum production, which is provided by Mind’s Eye. The company provides an excellent service and give our visually impaired audience members a bespoke experience every time. Mind’s Eye has just celebrated twenty five years of audio describing across the country for everything from theatre productions to galleries to museums and even zoos. We spoke to Anne Hornsby, Director of Mind’s Eye and Audio Describer, to learn more.
What is Audio Description and how does it work?
Audio Description increases access for people who are blind and partially sighted. The describer takes audiences on a tour of the stage, so that they can feel the set, props and costumes, and sometimes meet the actors. Describers then deliver a 10-to-15 minute introduction to the visual elements of the show, for instance, describing the characters and costumes, then, during the performance, they deliver descriptions of what’s happening on stage – all without talking over the dialogue.
What inspired you to start Mind’s Eye?
I was working at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton as Head of Marketing, when one of our customers, who was blind, suggested that we introduce a new service, which was then only being offered in the US and in one other theatre in the UK – Audio Description. With her guidance, we began audio describing our shows and also offering touch tours. The Octagon launched the service in 1990 and then in 1992, with so many requests from other theatres, and also from galleries and museums, I launched Mind’s Eye.
Could you give us an insight into what preparation you do for an audio described show?
An audio describer needs to study the script for a play, come and see it at least twice and make lots of notes on the costumes, the scenery, the action, especially sections of dance, fights, comedy and key dramatic moments, as well as facial expressions and gesture. We then work from a DVD of the show to develop our scripts, where we write our descriptions into the script with the cue points, and then we come in to rehearse. We also need to make arrangements with the Stage Management team about touch tours.
What has been your favourite Coliseum show to describe?
I really enjoyed audio describing Chicago, I had worked on a tour of it but I thought the Coliseum production was excellent. Years ago, I remember describing Me Mam Sez which had a great integrity about it, and of course, the pantomimes are always great fun. The costumes are wonderful to describe, and the pantos present a challenge because you never know quite what is going to happen!
Upcoming Audio Description Performances:
The Kitchen Sink
Thursday 22 February, 7.30pm
Tuesday 3 April, 7.30pm
Saturday 28 April, 2.30pm
A Taste of Honey
Thursday 7 June, 7.30pm
Bread & Roses
Wednesday 4 July, 2.30pm