Making Hansel & Gretel Accessible

We would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Howard Jones, Anne Hawthorne and Pam Newman who worked alongside us to make the 2020 Digital Version of our children’s Christmas show, Hansel & Gretel, more accessible for visually impaired and D/deaf audiences.

Pam filming British Sign Language for Hansel & GretelPam Newman, who runs Barnabus Deaf and Community Service, recorded a version of the production which included her signing the show in British Sign Language.

The Courtyard Audio Description Association (CADA) are an amazing group of volunteers that usually provide description on performances to improve the theatre experience for visually impaired and blind people who visit The Courtyard. They are fantastic, and we’re so glad they can enable us to increase accessibility for the visually impaired community. In the absence of Live Shows, due to the pandemic, this is their first time doing a digital show and also the first show specifically aimed at younger children. They certainly rose to the challenge!


Howard Jones, a member of CADA, provided the Audio Description for our recording of Hansel & Gretel. He has kindly put together the following information which explains a little more about what Audio Description is and how it works:

The objective of Audio Description is to enable visually impaired people to enjoy various forms of entertainment to the same degree as sighted audiences.

The Courtyard Audio Description Association has for the last twenty years been providing this service for live shows so the recent description of Hansel and Gretel was to some degree a departure from our normal work.

So how is it done? A few days before the show the describers view a rehearsal and make notes about the sets, costumes and characters to prepare introductory notes which are read to the audience a few minutes before the show starts. An infrared sound system allows the describers to be heard by the audience over headphones.

At the rehearsal a DVD recording is made which together with the script enables the describers to decide what they need to say when the show is running e.g. which characters are entering or leaving and other actions such as dance routines. As far as possible this should avoid overriding the dialogue. For a touring production the theatre company send a DVD as there would be no rehearsal to view.

An additional feature that we have introduced at The Courtyard is a pre-show Touch Tour. With the help of the stage crew and sometimes members of the cast we are able to take  our audience onto the set where they are able to touch and feel costumes and props.

In the case of Hansel and Gretel there was of course no live audience. Whilst the preparation process was the same the description was recorded and dubbed onto the film of the show which was a new experience for us which we enjoyed and hope that the audience did as well.

If this is something which interests you why not try one of the many TV shows and films which are audio described? If you are normally sighted just close your eyes or look away from the screen and see the difference it makes to your enjoyment.

Find out more about our commitment to making our building and events accessible to all.