By Lawrence Wood

The Wycombe Swan Theatre made Christmas even more magical for one local boy, helping him overcome his special needs to enjoy an enthralling performance of their panto – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Barnaby Wallace of Chalfont St Giles is a cheerful, polite and intelligent five-year-old. He is also autistic, but that doesn’t hold him back. He uses his extraordinary powers of memory and observation to explore life in the most unusual and exciting ways.

Unfortunately, his uniqueness also makes social settings challenging for him, so a day out anywhere is a big strain on his usually effervescent personality.

However, the Wycombe Swan Theatre were not going to let that stop him from having the chance to thoroughly enjoy their panto.

Having been made aware that Barnaby had special needs, the theatre immediately offered their ‘viewing room’, a quiet space he could use to view the performance if it began to overwhelm his sensory input.

This is crucial for people like Barnaby, who take in so much information every second that they can easily become distressed.

Thinking ahead, the theatre also gave Barnaby and his carer seats on the end of the row, to make for an easy exit if he should need it. This wasn’t specifically asked for, and showed just how professional and understanding the theatre team are.

Finally, when Barnaby arrived, he was taken to see the ‘viewing room’ so he knew where to go if he felt overwhelmed in the main auditorium. This made him significantly more comfortable, and enabled him to really relax and enjoy the show.

The theatre could have stopped there, but they had a very special present for Barnaby. As a rare treat, he was allowed to join the press meeting the cast after the show.

Struggling as always with socialising, Barnaby retreated into himself, but then the dazzling Naomi Cowe (Snow White) spotted him. Together with Robert Tripolino (Prince Harry), she put him at his ease and even won a smile.

Combine that with a chance to meet his Strictly hero Brendan Cole, and to get close to Kieran Powell with Dave the Dinosaur, and he really came out of his shell.

However, it was Natalie Spriggs (Queen Lucretia) who finally won his heart, shunning her character’s evil ways to show Barnaby a warmth and compassion that he will remember forever.

His grandmother, Nicola, accompanied him to the show and said: “A big thank you to all the cast and theatre staff at Wycombe Swan for a fabulous afternoon…He [Barnaby] had a brilliant time.”

“He has been excitedly showing pictures to all the family, and has talked about it non-stop.”

“He was especially fascinated by the ventriloquist, and cannot figure out how Muddles and Dave the Dinosaur were singing at the same time, but he definitely loved it!”

A spokesman for Wycombe Swan said: “It is always a pleasure to do something special for our guests, and I’m delighted to know that Barnaby had such a magical time.”