Last Friday I went to an audio described performance for the first time. I’ve come out with mixed feelings about it, although I’d like to say that I think it’s an excellent service and I have nothing but encouragement for those developing and producing it.
For those who don’t know what Audio Description (or AD) is I’ll explain. It’s a description which runs alongside the play, film or TV program which describes things such as scenery, facial expressions and costumes as well as filling in the gaps in dialog by explaining what is happening. I find this excellent for both TV and films at home.
I tried AD once at the cinema and it was a disaster. Big headphones that blocked out a lot of the sound from the film with low batteries that ran out half way through the showing. So I was a little sceptical when I arrived at the theatre as I didn’t know what to expect.
The headphones I was given were much lighter than the ones I’d had at the cinema, and there was also an option to play the performance as well as the AD through them. This didn’t prove necessary as I was close to the front. The programme notes that were read before the performance were very useful and informative. However, for me, I think I chose the wrong show to have AD. I went to see the Sound of Music which is a show and story I know very well, and I found I didn’t want or need all the extra description. There was a lot of information about what people were wearing which for me was too much, although other people might well have appreciated that information so I am not complaining or suggesting that it should have been different. Over all, I personally would have done just as well at that show without the AD.
However, a few years ago I went to see One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest on stage and was left hanging at the end as the last part happened in total silence. I’m still none the wiser as to what happened at the end of that play so AD on that occasion would have been invaluable.
In summary, I think AD is an absolutely fantastic service and I can only hope it grows from strength to strength. For me I just need to choose the performances where it would benefit me best.