42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Expectations: 4.5/5
Reality: 4.5/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 3.5/5…

Venue (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

Level access to the theatre via an alternative entrance; a member of staff at the main doors will assist you through this entrance, where you will find a waiting hall reserved for those with additional needs. I found this worked well as a quieter area away from the main foyer, but do note that there are about 10 steps to access the foyer (including the bar). Those in this area were let into the theatre first, which was fab: not only did we avoid the sometimes-overwhelming audience surge from the main doors, I got to be the first one to take my seat. Empty theatres = my absolute fave. More info about the theatre’s accessibility here.

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The Addams Family UK Tour – Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Expectations: 4.5/5
Reality: 5/5

Chronic Illness Friendly: 2/5 – Lots of strobe lighting and pyrotechnics throughout with no build-up, each instance lasting for a couple of seconds: I’d be particularly cautious if you suffer from photosensitivity, migraines or any similar conditions. Some surprising, jumpy moments too, enough so that the woman sat next to me physically levitated out of her seat in shock a handful of times throughout the performance… Regardless, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to tolerate odd moments of these things, like me, this is definitely one of those shows that’s worth the payback.

I’ve just settled down to write this review, and I’m already smiling. The Addams Family UK Tour, directed by Matthew White, was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year, and it feels like a privilege to have experienced it for myself. Ironically, it was only because my best pal Izzy was desperate to see the show that I booked us tickets for her birthday; and once again, something that wasn’t initially my choice has ended up being one of my all-time favourites.

Let me just start by saying that yes, I was really disappointed when I found out that both Carrie Hope Fletcher and Les Dennis were off the night we went to see it. Carrie in particular is somebody who, after only being aware of her and watching her videos for a short period of time, as a result of booking our Addams Family tickets, I now hugely admire and was desperate to see perform. HOWEVER, the two understudies filling in their roles were outstanding, and the entire cast as a collective were just SOLID.

Cameron Blakely as Gomez made my entire life. His comedic performance was so strong that soon, even just his entering the stage had me smiling, and his and Samantha Womack’s performance as Morticia complemented each other perfectly. Kirsty Ingram gave an emotive and heartfelt, yet excellently psychotic, portrayal as understudy Wednesday as naturally and easily as if she’d done it every night of her life, and Grant McIntyre did an excellent job in making the audience’s heart go out to Pugsley, in spite of his wickedness. Scott Paige as understudy Uncle Fester was absolutely hysterical, utterly nailing the one-liners, timing, and moments of direct communication with the audience. Dickon Gough also really did justice to the infamous Lurch, as did Valda Aviks as Grandma delivering that killer line in Full Disclosure, that had the entire audience sniggering away for a good few minutes; I don’t want to give it away to anybody waiting to see the show, but if you’ve already witnessed it, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Again, I’m smiling just thinking about it. The characterisations of the three members of The Beineke Family were such a hilarious contrast to The Addams Family, and I’m sure it goes without saying that I absolutely adore Oliver Ormson in particular. The ensemble did a wonderful job of portraying their individual identities as Ancestor characters, and I particularly enjoyed Jessica Buckby as the creepy Ballerina Ancestor; you guys know I’m all about the dance content. Phew. This was one talented cast, and this paragraph alone, in spite of its gushiness, really doesn’t do justice to their talents both individually, and together as a collective.

The production as a whole was just faultless, really. Alistair David’s choreography was a particular highlight: clean and kooky and wonderful all at once, and the transitions between scenes were clever and seamless and clearly so well thought out. The set and costume design were faultless, particularly regarding the monster under Pugsley’s bed. Every single musical number was executed extraordinarily (props to Richard Beadle), and I’d be hard pushed to pick a favourite… although Scott Paige’s performance of The Moon And Me was hysterical, and Full Disclosure at the end of Act One was an absolute work of art, and probably one of my all-time favourite musical moments. Seriously, I’m sat here writing this and actually pining because of the fact that I probably won’t get to see that scene again. Addams Family production team, live show recording please?!

So, in case you hadn’t noticed, I kind of liked this show. It represents the very best of musical comedy, and I know it’s one that will always stick in my mind that all future shows will be held up in comparison to. Congratulations to an extremely talented cast and crew for creating something so wonderful, although I do hold you personally responsible for, as Gomez would say, the Happy Sad thing I’ve got going on right now: I’m legitimately sad that I won’t get to see this one again this time around, but I’m so blummin’ happy that I experienced The Addams Family for myself.

If you haven’t already seen The Addams Family, take a look at the remaining tour dates and book yourself a ticket, pronto. Tickets are a little pricier than usual, but they’re worth it. If you have already seen it, do leave me a comment below or send me a Tweet, so we can discuss Cameron Blakeley’s comedy genius at length. Ta.

If you liked this post, you might like my review of Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes; read here!


Day One Theatre’s No Exit: Theatre Review

“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.”

― Jean-Paul SartreNo Exit

Expectations: 3/5
Reality: 4/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 3/5 – the performance itself was very suitable for those with sensory issues, although the lack of interval may be something to take into account. The venue is inaccessible to wheelchair users; I’ve emailed to ask what their plans are to address this, but am yet to hear back. Will update if they do get back to me!

Upon entering Sheffield Montgomery Theatre (with difficulty because lol, steps), I had no idea what to expect for the next 90 minutes. However, I really enjoyed Day One Theatre Group’s performance of No Exit; a harrowing play by Jean-Paul Satre, first performed in 1944. This kind of piece is quite far out of my usual comfort zone, but under Laurie Nelson’s direction, proved to be engaging and thought-provoking nonetheless. In short, a Valet delivers three seemingly random strangers into a minimalist room located in hell, where they are to spend the rest of their existence. A kind of existentialist Big Brother, if you will. Channel 5, where are you at?

The set and costuming were both appropriate and non-intrusive, and the small cast of just four performers were all committed to their roles. Although brief, Matthew Carroll’s performance as The Valet was captivating and a solid introduction to the piece. Throughout the rest of the performance, it was so enjoyable to have three talented and committed actors to watch. Not only were their individual parts strong and convincing, their relationships between each other had clearly been thought about in depth, and added an extra dynamic to the piece.

John Paul Kubon as Garcin gave a particularly notable performance, with the anguish radiating off him really drawing the audience in. Kate Spivey as Estelle added a comedic portrayal of an ultimately disturbing character, and I found that her parts really helped me to remain engaged throughout the performance. This contrasted nicely with Jade Strain’s role of Inez, delivered with certainty and an air of authority which really captured Inez’s underlying wit and insight into the nature of the other characters.

Above all, this performance appeared to be successful in encouraging audiences to think about and question their own definition of what hell is. As referred to in the play, is hell really the physical pain and anguish it’s typically portrayed as, or is it mental torture that arises from being trapped in a room with those put there to see the worst in yourself? Personally, I’m not sure which seems like the safer option any more. If you had to, which would you choose?

Many thanks to Day One Theatre Group for initing me to review, and congratulations for putting on an excellent (and now sold out!) show: find out more about their work here!

If you liked this post, you might like this one: my review of What We Wished For by Sheffield People’s Theatre!


Discussing Accessible Theatre With West End Wilma (Wilma Awards 2017)

I jumped at the chance to interview the theatre blogging legend that is West End Wilma; what with the upcoming Wilma Awards nominees just being announced and the inclusion of an accessibility award this year, there were a lot of topics about inclusive theatre that I was eager to discuss!

Hey Wilma, thanks for chatting with me today!

I absolutely love that The Wilma Awards have a category dedicated to accessibility this year. What encouraged you to take this step?

I think it’s a really important thing and so I’m trying to do anything I can do to raise awareness of the importance of the issue.

We know from disabled theatregoers that individual theatre venues and teams can massively vary in their accessibility. Are there any venues or staff teams that you personally know to be at the top of their game in terms of disabled access?

Places like The Arcola, Park Theatre and National Theatre all do a great job I think.

Many theatres today are wonderful at promoting relaxed performances and ensuring that their audiences are informed about specific aspects of the performance e.g. the use of strobe lighting beforehand. From your own work with audiences affected by autism, can you explain why this is so important?

As theatre-goers we like to moan about people who don’t behave properly at the theatre. Talking, not sitting still etc. And it can be annoying to have this happen, especially when tickets are so expensive. But what a lot of people don’t consider is that maybe they have an underlying issue that makes it difficult for them to stay still for long periods of time. I agree there is a way you should behave at the theatre but if we are going to stipulate these things then we should also ensure that there is at least one performance of every show that caters to people who may need a more relaxed environment. Because everyone should be able to experience the joy of theatre.

I really enjoyed your recent piece on the necessity of actors being able to perform eight shows a week. Applying this to aspiring disabled actors, do you think there’s currently enough support in place for performers with disabilities and long-term conditions to succeed in the competitive West End industry?

That’s a great question and I don’t think I know the answer. My point in that blog was that decades ago there was no such thing as an alternate performer and if you were cast in a role you were expected to do all eight shows a week. Now it is as though we have part time actors who only do some of the shows but they are still billed as the lead performer.  I’m not really sure what support is available for disabled actors though but it’s certainly something I’ll look in to.

My own personal mission is to promote accessible theatre, not just for those with disabilities, but also for those with debilitating chronic illnesses, who are not often included in the conversation. If you could change one thing about current theatre practice to make it more accessible for this population, what would you do?

I don’t think it matters what disability you have, everyone deserves the opportunity to be able to go to the theatre and feel in a safe environment where they aren’t judged for what they do. There are certainly more variations on accessible shows popping up (Dementia friendly, Mother and baby shows etc) and so we are certainly moving in the right direction towards catering to all types of conditions.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today! Where can we find out more about you, and this year’s Wilma Awards?

Check out westendwilma.com for all the news on the awards. The nominees have just be announced and voting opens online on 1 September! There are a few tickets available for the ceremony if anyone wants to come along. They can be bought at delfontmackintosh.co.uk.

This was my first ever time conducting an interview on my blog, so I hope you guys enjoyed it! Accessible theatre is so important to me and although strides are being made, there’s still a long-way to go in ensuring theatre is inclusive for all. Do you have any thoughts on the current situation and how things could be improved? I’d love to hear your views!

Photo Credits: West End Wilma

If you enjoyed this post, you might like this one: How I Fund My Theatre Addiction!