Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas To All From Access London

Welcome back to Access London. A huge Thank You to everyone that has followed and supported this blog and cause in 2011 - Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

With lots going on in the Capital in 2012, it should be a year to remember. Thank you for all your Christmas messages this week and emails on what you're looking forward to seeing next year. To answer one question many of you asked me in those messages: I'm starting off the new year by seeing Matilda, Pippin and Tosca (ENO) in January.

At the end of January, Access London will be holding an online auction with lots of great theatre treats, hopefully you can join in and I look forward to seeing you there - more details to follow at the beginning of the new year.

I believe I've answered most messages sent to me up until Thursday this week, if you sent me one after this day, I will get back to you shortly after Christmas. All that's left for me to say in this post is Merry Christmas and enjoy the day wherever you are and whoever you are spending it with.

I'll leave you with a few messages from some MT performers who have been kind enough to show support for Access London this year. Once again, a Huge Thank You to them all, your time and support is always so much appreciated.....

"I wish you all a wonderful Christmas filled with Joy, Love, Magic and Music! Thank You for all your love and support!"

"Desejo a todos um Feliz Natal cheio de alegria, amor, magia e musica! Muito obrigada pelo vosso carinho e apoio!"

From Sofia Escobar, Phantom of the Opera.

Sofia is currently playing Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre and has extended her contract there until September 2012. You can see her perform Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday evening performances and Thursday and Saturday matinees. To book Access rate tickets to see Phantom, call: 0844 412 4648.You can follow Sofia on Twitter @sofia_escobar

"A Merry Christmas from the UK tour of South Pacific. Thanks to Access London for their support. Lots of Love and Festive Cheer to you all! x"

From Nick Wyschna, South Pacific.

Nick is currently playing Buzz Adams in the UK tour of South Pacific at The Oxford New Theatre until 31st December and then moving to The Mayflower Southampton 17 January - 4 February 2012.
You can buy Nick's album 'Lost In The Wilderness' from his website HERE
And follow him on Twitter @NickWyschna

"Nadolig Llawen to all Access London readers! See you on tour next year!"

From John Owen Jones, Phantom of the Opera 2012 Tour.

John will be playing the role of The Phantom during its 25th Anniversary 2012 tour which opens in Plymouth 27 February - 31 March 2012. He also has a new album coming out in Spring 2012. You can buy his current album from Dress Circle HERE
You can follow John on Twitter @johnowenjones

"Happy Christmas everyone! Here's hoping 2012 will bring total access to ALL theatre goers."

From Rebecca Caine, Musical Theatre & Opera Soprano.

Rebecca will be performing with the 3 Phantoms once again in February (10 and 11) at the Chichester Festival Theatre - to book tickets, including access rates, call 01243 781 312. Rebecca also has her own concert on 25 March at The Pheasantry, London - booking information to be released in the new year, definitely one for the diary although unfortunately the venue is only accessible via a flight of alomst 30 steps. If you can manage these though, please do book and go.
You can buy Rebecca's album 'Leading Ladies' from Dress Circle HERE
You can also follow her on Twitter @RebeccaCaine

"Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all you lovely people! Look forward to exciting things happening in 2012 for Access London! x"

From Lee Bowen, Musical Theatre and Opera Tenor

Lee will be appearing at Iford Arts Festival in 2012 singing Dr Caius in Verdi's Falstaff. For more information, visit You can also follow Lee on Twitter @LeeBowenTenor

"To all the Phantom fans.....Thanks for your ongoing support. Wishing you all a very Happy and Peaceful Xmas and a fabulous 2012!! xxLove Scottyxx"

From Scott Davies, Phantom of the Opera & Tosca

Scott is currently stand-by Phantom at her Majesty's theatre until September 2012. He is also currently performing at the English National Opera (London Coliseum) as Spoletta in Tosca. Final performaces are on 17, 21, 24 and 29 January. To book Access tickets, you can join the ENO's Access Scheme for free to be entitled to the Access rate, call 0871 472 0666.

"Hi all! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. Hope to see you at Her Majesty's very soon. Lots of Love, Jo."

From Joanna Loxton, Phantom of the Opera

Jo is currently playing Madame Firmin in Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre. She also covers for the role of Madame Giry. To see Jo perform as Madame Giry, these are the next dates that she is on: 2-4 February and 26 March - 4 April 2012. To book Access tickets to Phantom of the Opera, call: 0844 412 4648. You can follow Jo on Twitter @Joloxton

"From the sunny South Pacific to Access London and all your readers, a very very Merry Christmas to you all."

From Chris Jenkins, South Pacific

Chris is currently Swing and Assistant Dance Captain on the UK tour of South Pacific at The Oxford New Theatre until 31st December and then moving to The Mayflower Southhampton 17 January - 4 February 2012.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @chrisjenko

"Hi Everyone. Australia is great, nice to be home for Xmas! Hoping to be back in the UK very soon! Hope you all have a fantastic Christmas."

From Daniel Gourlay, Dancer, Singer, Actor

Daniel was part of the London 'Love Never Dies' cast. He is currently at home in Australia but hopes to be back in the UK soon.
You can follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielGourlay89

"For all of you who have any relationship with the fantastic Access London, have a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous 2012! Please keep going to the theatre and challenging and enjoying not only yourselves but those who create the work! Mx"

From Michael Xavier, Actor and Singer

Michael will perform opposite Connie Fisher on a 3 month tour of Wonderful Town from March 2012.
To keep up to date with all of Michael's news, please have a look at his website, where you can also listen to soundclips of him singing.... MICHAEL XAVIER
You can also follow Michael on Twitter @michaelxavierMX

"Hope you all had a Happy Christmas. Wishing everyone a healthy, bright and wonderful 2012. X"

From AJ Callaghan, Les Miserables

AJ is currently performing in Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre and also covers the role of Fantine. To see AJ as Fantine, these are the next dates that she is covering: 2-11 January and 6-8 February 2012.
To book Access tickets to see Les Miserables, call 0844 482 5137.

"Here's hoping you have a very Happy New (Olympic) Year filled with exciting and stimulating theatre experiences. May you continue in your fabulous, undying support of the arts and look forward with me, to a raft of new shows and concerts in 2012. With love, Richard Halton"

To keep up with all of Richard's news, visit his website
You can also follow him on Twitter @richiehalton

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Ladykillers @ The Gielgud

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disabled access to the arts in London.

The Ladykillers opened at The Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue last month. Based on the celebrated Ealing comedy, it is a new adaption by Graham Linehan (Father Ted) and directed by Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote).

"THE LADYKILLERS is a classic black comedy; a sweet little old lady, alone in her house, is pitted against a gang of criminal misfits who will stop at nothing...

Posing as amateur musicians, Professor Marcus and his gang rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but strict Mrs Wilberforce. The villains plot to involve her, unwittingly, in Marcus’ brilliantly conceived heist job. The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet. With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs W. is alone with five desperate men. But who will be forced to face the music?"

Booking has now extended until the 14th April 2012. To book Access tickets to The Ladykillers, call the dedicated Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Access line on 0844 482 5137 - follow the options to The Gielgud Theatre and you will be connected directly with the theatre box office. Access rates and concessions are available to those with disabilities and a companion/carer.

For all other ticket types, you can book online HERE

If you are a wheelchair or scooter user, just notify someone at the front of the theatre upon arrival and a side Exit door will be opened for you on Rupert Street (third door along). There is one step at this door but there is ramp that can be placed over it to allow for access. There is step-free access to the foyer bar where there is also an accessible WC.

There are 2 dedicated wheelchair spaces in the dress circle (at either end of row B). Alternatively, if you can transfer, seats B5 and B30 in the dress circle are step-free. The theatre has an infra-red system with 12 headsets that can be borrowed from the foyer - note that a receipt must be signed for the use of these upon presenting ID. Assistance dogs are allowed into the auditorium, alternatively, staff can sit with the dog during the performance. Everyone at the theatre is extremely helpful and has great disability awareness.

COMING SOON: Jersey Boys, Billy Elliot, Royal Albert Hall update

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Cavendish Hotel - Winter Deals and Cocktails

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting disabled access in London.

Today's post is dedicated to the Cavendish Hotel - Access London's recommended hotel. Located on Jermyn Street, a stone's throw from Piccadilly Circus, The Cavendish is ideally placed to visit theatres, galleries, shops and attractions. The accessible entrance is via the hotel's drop off point on Duke Street where there is level access into the reception area and lifts up to the lounge, restaurant, lounge bar and rooms.

For those wishing to catch a show whilst staying at The Cavendish, the nearest theatres include: The Criterion Theatre (The 39 Steps), Her Majesty's (Phantom of the Opera), Jermyn Street Theatre (check their website for latest show - this theatre has no step-free access though), Theatre Royal Haymarket (currently - The Lion In Winter), Gielgud (currently The Ladykillers), Queens (Les Miserables), Lyric (Thriller Live!).

Other attractions close to the hotel include The Royal Academy of Art, just 2 minutes away on Piccadilly, Royal Parks (Green Park and St James'), National and Portrait Galleries, Buckingham Palace, Fortnum & Masons, the shops of Jermyn Street and Regent Street.

The Cavendish has some beautifully designed accessible rooms available that include an accessible roll-in shower room. For those with more mobility, treat yourself to a stay in an Executive room - includes a seperate shower and bath, but not a roll-in one - the room however is plenty big enough to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters.

The Cavendish has some fantastic, festive Winter Deals on right now, lasting through to the end of January, you can find out all the details HERE . If you do require an accessible room though, you will need to ring the main reservations number on 020 7930 2111 and check the rooms are available for the dates you require before booking them online. The Petrichor restaurant at The Cavendish is offering a special Christmas lunch and dinner menu which can be seen HERE .

Petrichor can be accessed using a ramp if you are a wheelchair or scooter user or there are 3 shallow steps with a handrail. Once inside, the restaurant is spacious with a choice of different types of seating and ample room for wheelchairs. You can make a booking or enquire further by calling the Petrichor on 020 7930 2111. The Cavendish have also created a festive twist on their traditional afternoon tea for the holiday season - their lounge is a great place to stop off after Christmas shopping to relax and enjoy afternoon tea for under £20 per person! For details on all the festive deals and goings-on at The Cavendish SEE THEIR WEBSITE HERE

Finally, I recently went to a cocktail evening and masterclass at The Cavendish, led by cocktail experts Gabor and Warren. I would definitely recommend a trip to one of the two bars at the hotel to try one of this season's delicious cocktails, all at very reasonable prices. The lounge bar is fully accessible if you are a wheelchair or scooter user and is on the 1st floor - accessed via one of the 3 lifts from the ground floor reception area. The lobby bar can only be accessed by several steps but there is a handrail if you are able to manage a few steps. However you choose to, enjoy The Cavendish Hotel this festive season!

COMING SOON: Billy Elliot, Pippin, Jersey Boys, The Ladykillers

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Lion In Winter - Theatre Royal Haymarket

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for continuing to support disabled access to the arts in London.

Today's post is dedicated to the Theatre Royal Haymarket and its current production, The Lion In Winter.

"A family Christmas becomes a family at war. Henry II, not so young as he was, invites his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitane, and his three sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, to spend the festive season with him, his mistress Princess Alais, and her brother, the young King Philip of France. Will Henry name who is to be his successor as King of England? Their yuletide celebration turns into a combat zone of deceit, betrayal, bitter power games and scabrous wit."

The Lion In Winter is the latest production to be directed by Trevor Nunn at the Haymarket this season and stars Joanna Lumley as Eleanor and Robert Lindsay as King Henry II.

The show runs until the 28 January 2012 with performances Monday - Saturday evenings (7.30pm) and matinees on Thursday and Saturday (2.30pm). To book Access tickets, please contact the box office directly on 020 7930 8800. For all other bookings, please call 0845 481 1870.

Theatre Royal Haymarket can be accessed via 3 steps up into the foyer (with many additional steps into the auditorium). If you are a wheelchair or scooter user or cannot manage stairs, please inform the box office when you book your tickets and then someone at the front of the theatre and one of the side exit doors on the Haymarket will be opened for you. If you are a scooter user, it is best to ask for the right side doors to be opened as this leads to the scooter storage area. Both sets of doors lead into the rear of the stalls where there is an accessible WC.

Once in the stalls, there is 1 space for a wheelchair user who cannot transfer at the back of the stalls. If you can transfer, you can book tickets for any aisle seat in the stalls (G1 and G21 have the most leg room). It should be noted that the stalls area does slope more steeply towards the stage than some other West End theatres but ushers are very helpful. There aren't any bars that are accessible but it can be arranged for an interval drink to be brought to you if you cannot manage stairs.

Assistance dogs are not allowed into the auditorium but they can be looked after by staff during the performance. Infra red headsets are available from the foyer (or ask an usher if you cannot manage stairs) - a £10, refundable deposit is required.

Blue badge parking is available on Whitcomb Street, Charles II Street and in St James' Square. Most bays have no time restrictions after 6.00pm but it is always best to check the signs at each one.

For more details on the show and theatre see the Theatre Royal Haymarket Website

Thank you to everyone who posted lovely comments on last week's birthday post for Access London and sent emails and tweets - the support is very much appreciated.

COMING SOON: Pippin at Menier Chocolate Factory, Jersey Boys, The Globe Exhibition

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Access London - 1 Today!!

Welcome back to Access London and a huge Thank You once again for your continued support for disabled access to the arts in London.

Today's post is somewhat different as Access London is celebrating its first birthday today!! I can't quite believe it has been a year since I launched this blog and posted the first welcome post - it's been a fantastic year, a lot learnt, hopefully some things achieved and help provided to those needing to know more about access to the theatre and arts in London.

This last year has seen many theatres, galleries, museums and venues reviewed on their access and I'd like to send out a huge thank you to all the staff at all the venues for their help and support over the last year, providing information, interviews and images.

My next Thank You goes to every reader of Access London for your loyal support and for helping to spread the word about it - it is so much appreciated. I do read every single one of your messages, comments, emails and tweets sent and I hope have managed to reply to them all (if I haven't yet, I will very soon, I promise). As I have mentioned on previous posts, if you have any questions about access to any venues, please don't hesitate to get in touch, if the venue hasn't yet been reviewed, it doesn't mean that I don't know details of the access there or the best person for you to contact, but more likely that I haven't yet gotten around to reviewing if officially. If however, you have any questions for people that have been interviewed on Access London (and many of you have sent me questions) it really would be best for you to send them to the person involved, so you can get the most accurate answers and information. I'd also like to thank everyone who has supported Access London and its posts on both Twitter and Facebook - I couldn't have done it without you!

This year Access London noted some important access issues at the Royal Albert Hall -after fairly extensive discussions with management at the Hall, specific changes and improvements were promised - some immediate and some on a more medium-long term plan. I am going back to see a concert there just before Christmas and will hopefully be able to come back to you with good news on some changes that have been made since the Phantom 25 celebrations in October this year. Another venue that presented access issues was the Palladium - not so much in terms of physical access but of disability awareness, staff training and treatment of those with disabilities. Again, various discussions have been had and letters corresponded (of which I received an extremely helpful and supportive one from Andrew Lloyd Webber's office) and once again, I hope to bring news of improvements made at that theatre very soon.

Some of the venues that have proven to be well geared up to help those with disabilities include: The Palace, Her Majesty's, Criterion, Gielgud, Southwark Playhouse, Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, Victoria Palace, Haymarket, The Barbican and the Adelphi. There is still much to be done to improve the access for all to our theatres and arts venues in London but these theatres are some that have made an excellent start to being accessible and are showing a good example to others that really do need to look at their access: both the policies they put in place and the physical access to the theatre too.

Access London was recently lucky enough to work with Degrafik, a great young designer who has designed Access London's new logo - a huge Thank You to Damion for all your help. Access London feels it is a fitting time as any to reveal the new logo to you (although my Facebook friends have had a sneak peak at it a couple of weeks ago!)

Access London has been fortunate enough to be able to interview lots of cast members from some truly fabulous shows over the past year and I'd like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank You for the time and support of: Rosemary Ashe, Gina Beck, Kieran Brown, Lee Bowen, Patrick Burbridge, Rebecca Caine, AJ Callaghan, Earl Carpenter, Steven Cleverley, Scott Davies, Stephen John Davis, Janet Devenish, Killian Donnelly, Cynthia Erivo, Sofia Escobar, Sophie Evans, Daniel Gourlay, Celia Graham, Richard Halton, Cameron Jack, Chris Jenkins, John Owen Jones, Paul Keating, Daniel Koek, Joanna Loxton, Myrra Malmberg, Frances Ruffelle, Simon Shorten, Emily Tierney, Katy Treharne, Tabitha Webb, Nick Wyschna, Michael Xavier.

Finally, a special Thank You to some for their continued support and fabulous generosity: Lee Bowen, Sofia Escobar, John Owen Jones, Rebecca Caine, AJ Callaghan, Myrra Malmberg, Nick Wyschna, everyone at The Cavendish Hotel, Her Majesty's Theatre, Palace Theatre, Adelphi Theatre, V&A Museum, and some special Twitter mentions for @LugiLou @inlondonguide @AboutLondonNews @kaydub89.

Access London has at least 2 awareness and fundraising events planned so far for 2012 including, an online charity auction for the beginning of the new year (to include lots of great theatre related items including signed cds and posters) and a charity concert for next September to coincide around the time of the paralympics. Details of the auction will be around from very early on in the new year and the concert throughout 2012, thank you for any and all support you can show for either event.

On that note (and after receiving many requests that I include it in this birthday post), I'll leave you with a video that has been taking Twitter and Youtube by storm over the last week - no, not the trailer for the Phantom25 dvd but, the latest challenge in the johnvskillian battle from the fabulous John Owen Jones and Killian Donnelly - watch for a great laugh and see The Phantom and Raoul as you've never seen them before - check out the rest of the challenges on their Youtube channel....

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Lyric Theatre - Shaftesbury Avenue

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for continuing to support disabled access to the arts in London.

The Lyric Theatre, located on Shaftesbury Avenue, is the current home of the Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 musical Thriller Live! Based on the career of the late pop star, the show includes many of his greatest hits, brought to the stage by singers and dancers - it also includes video footage and special effects.

If you are a wheelchair or scooter user, the theatre can be accessed via a side exit door on Shaftesbury Avenue - simply let someone know at the front of the theatre and they will open the doors for you. You should be aware that there is a small (2-3 inch) ridge up into this entrance but staff are happy to help navigate up it. If you can manage a small amount of steps, the foyer can be accessed via 3 steps at the front of the theatre. From here there is level access into the dress circle. All steps inside the auditorium are highlighted.

If you cannot manage any steps, then the side exit door on Shaftesbury Avenue will lead you straight into a room that can store wheelchairs or scooters if you can transfer and also has an accessible WC. From here, Boxes C, D and E are accessible with level access. Box E is the largest and can accommodate 1-2 wheelchairs or scooters and a guest whilst Boxes C and D can each accommodate 1 wheelchair or scooter and a guest. All of the Boxes have a slightly restricted view, being side on to the stage, but not greatly so.

The Lyric has an infra-red hearing system with 5 headsets available to use. Assistance dogs are allowed into the auditorium (maximum of 2 dogs per performance) but you need to either book a transfer seat in the dress circle or one of the boxes. There are no bars that have completely level access but staff are happy to help collect interval drinks.

To book Access Tickets to Thriller Live!, please call: 0844 412 4648 (via SEE Tickets Access Line) - discounted Access rates are available for people with disabilities and a companion/carer. To book all other ticket types, please call: 0844 482 9674.

Thank You to Everyone who has sent in messages to Access London over the past few days - I will reply to all over the next couple of days as I've been away for the weekend to see Three Phantoms perform in Plymouth. A fabulous concert and unfortunately the last one for 2011. There is a chance to see the show in February in Chichester and I'd encourage anyone that is available then to go and watch. To book tickets and for Access information, see The Chichester Festival Theatre Website

Lastly, I'm happy to answer (to the best I can) any Access questions to theatres and venues posted about on Access London but for questions on interviews with cast members, it would be best for you to contact them directly. Many of the people interviewed on Access London have Twitter accounts so it may be best to start there. These include the questions left over the weekend for: Stephen John Davis @stephenjdavis1 , Rebecca Caine @RebeccaCaine and Sofia Escobar @sofia_escobar

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Phantom of the Opera & Interview with former Phantom, Stephen John Davis

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness to the arts in London.

Tomorrow sees the release of the Phantom 25 dvd and to celebrate Access London has another post in our Phantom series.

This week also saw the release of tickets for venues 2 and 3 of Phantom's 2012 UK tour. Both of these will see John Owen Jones behind the mask as The Phantom and Katie Hall will star alongside as Christine. Phantom will arrive at the Manchester Palace Theatre 5 April 2012 - 19 May 2012. The theatre has wheelchair bays in the Cicrle and lift access to the Circle and Grand Tier. There is also an infra red loop system installed. Access Performances include: BSL - Thurs 26 April 2012, 7.30pm, Audio Described - Wed 2 May 2012, 7.30pm and Captioned - Sat 12 May 2012, 2.30pm. To book access tickets for the Palace, please call: 0161 245 6605. For more information, see the
Manchester Palace Website

Phantom will then be at the Bristol Hippodrome 23 May 2012 - 30 June 2012. For more information on Access performances and facilities, please call the Access booking line on: 0117 302 3222.

Back in London, Phantom's home is at Her Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket. The stalls are easily accessible to wheelchair and scooter users via a side exit door on Charles II Street - simply inform someone at the front of the theatre and they will open it for you. This leads into the rear of the stalls and has an accessible WC. There is space for 4 wheelchairs and companions in Row S or, if you can transfer from your wheelchair or scooter, any aisle seat is accessible.

There is an infra red hearing system installed at the theatre and 10 headsets are available to use - ask in the foyer or an usher. A maximum of 2 assistance dogs are allowed in at any performance. Both large print programmes and braille cast lists are available on request.

To book Access tickets for Phantom of the Opera (currently available from £22.50 each for you and a carer/companion in the stalls), please call: 0844 412 4648. For all other tickets, please call: 0844 412 4653.

Please note: The Access rate is available to those with a disability, not just those who use a wheelchair or scooter - I'm simply pointing this out as I was at Her Majesty's last week and met a lady who was registered blind yet had no idea she was entitled to this - this rate and service are there for a reason and to help, so please do ring and check to see if you are entitled to them!

As with all of Access London's Phantom posts, I'm delighted to bring you an interview with another former cast member, this week - Stephen John Davis. I'd like to take this opportunity to once again say a huge Thank You to Stephen for his time and support.

AL: How did you become involved with the show?

SJD: I was called in to audition for the show’s associate and resident directors and musical director. I sang Lonely House from Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene”. They then asked me to prepare some of the Phantom’s music and recalled me twice. I was then offered the role of Joseph Buquet and “in house” cover Phantom. Luckily, I was able to perform as the Phantom on many occasions.

AL: Phantom is such an iconic show and so well loved, what did it feel like to be part of this worldwide phenomenon?

SJD: It always feels special when you appear in a show that has such an amazing history and is known by millions around the world. On the days when you’re feeling a bit tired, the buzz from the audience reminds you just how much the show means to those paying to see it.

AL: Who played alongside you in the role of Christine?

SJD: I rehearsed with the lovely Katy Treharne and I was thrilled when we did a couple of shows together. I was also incredibly lucky to work with Gina Beck, Sofia Escobar and Tabitha Webb.

AL: You played The Phantom for the 10,000th performance at Her Majesty's in 2010. What was it like to be onstage with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford to celebrate it?

SJD: It was pretty special to be honest. To be on the original stage at Her Majesty’s where the whole phenomenon began as the Phantom alongside the composer and the original Phantom was a day I will never forget. I will also never apologise for going on about it!!!

AL: What was your favourite scene/song to perform in the show?

SJD: I enjoyed all of it! Sorry that may sound a cop out but it’s true; The Phantom never makes a ”normal” entrance. The powerful first entrance behind the mirror going into the first journey and the boat, I loved the Angel scene at the end of Act 1 (although it was a little uncomfortable!). The Masquerade entrance and exit! The reveal from the cross after “Wishing”, the invasion of Don Juan disguised in the cowl that Piangi should be wearing.
Every scene had something in it that I could really enjoy playing. “Music of the Night” is obviously THE song but there isn’t anything that I didn’t love singing.

AL: What was it like to be a part of the Phantom 25 celebrations?

SJD: Another amazing experience. Don Attilio was such fun to play and the atmosphere was electric. A few of us agreed that we just had to stand at the bows and finale and try to take the whole spectacle in. The RAH is a pretty special place (even if I did rename it the South Ken Village Hall)

AL: In your opinion, why do audiences love the show so much and return to see it time and again?

SJD: The spectacle – Maria Bj√∂rnson’s designs have never been bettered. The music is probably ALW’s best and the tale of a child being rejected by his own mother, growing up with the world recoiling from him when he has such passion for music and beauty inside is quite heartbreaking. People love a good cry!

AL: Have you watched a performance of Phantom elsewhere in the world? If yes, is it much different to the London production?

SJD: No. I’d love to see it on Broadway. I watched part of the film once.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?

SJD: I’d like a go at Che in Evita and Albin in La Cage aux folles might be fun!

AL: Do you have a message for Phantom 25 and its fans?

SJD: Thank you! There wouldn’t be a 25th birthday if it weren’t for the “PHANS”. I really hope you enjoyed the RAH performance this year and 10,000th performance last year if you saw them. Here’s to the next 25 years!

You can follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenjdavis1

Stephen is currently appearing in the UK Tour of South Pacific. I saw this production when it was at the Barbican in London and would thoroughly recommend it. To see tour dates and venues, check out THE SOUTH PACIFIC WEBSITE

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Victoria & Albert Museum

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for continuing to support disability access and awareness to the arts.

Located in South Kensington, along The Cromwell Road, The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is the home to a vast array of objects and exhibitions from Renaissance to Contemporary, all based around art and design. Some of its permanent collections include Jewellery, Fashion, Ceramics, Furniture, Sculpture, Paintings and Theatre and Performance. It also exhibits visiting and touring collections and exhibitions that change regularly throughout the year - there is currently a Postmodernism exhibition on until 15 January 2012.

Inside, the museum is somewhat of a warren of rooms and passages housed in smaller spaces than some of London's other large museums. This gives the V&A its intimate feel and works well. Although the individual rooms may appear smaller, there is still plenty of space to manoeuver wheelchairs and scooters around and all of the gallery assistants are very helpful.

The museum is open from 10am until 5.45pm daily but has late night opening on Fridays, until 10pm. The museum itself is free to enter and visit its permanent collection. Some of the temporary and visiting exhibitions have entrance charges - those with disabilities usually qualify for a discounted rate and a companion/carer is usually admitted free of charge.

The V&A has a Disability and Access Helpline that can be called for all general enquiries: 020 7942 2766, or email
You can also book and hire wheelchairs which can be collected from the information desk. Please phone and book in advance on 020 7942 2002.

The gallery provides stools throughout which can be carried round for those who need regular breaks from walking. There is also sound enhancement equipment available for use on tours and lectures. Induction loops are present in retail areas, information point and desk areas and in the theatre and seminar rooms. The museum also runs a regular programme of BSL talks and tours - for more information on these, ring the access helpline on 020 7942 2766.

There is currently redevelopment going on along Exhibition Road (the road along which the level access entrance is to the V&A). Therefore the blue badge bays along this road may be out of use until the end of 2011. The disabled entrance to the museum can still be accessed though and is also being updated and improved.

Throughout the musuem, there are large print guides and braille information in front of some of the exhibits. There are also touch tour elements available throughout.

There are lifts to all floors of the museum, although I would advise picking up a map on your way in as these are few and far between once inside the main part of the exhibition and you may find yourself going a lot further away from the lifts than expected! There is a large ramped walkway up into the shop, as well as the main stepped entrance. Assistance dogs are welcome into the V&A.

All in all, the V&A is incredibly accessible to those with disabilities, is constantly improving the services it does offer and has extremely helpful staff, happy to assist if needed.

To find out where the nearest blue badge bays are in the area VISIT THIS SITE
To find out more about what's on at the V&A SEE THEIR WEBSITE HERE

COMING SOON: The Lion In Winter, London Coliseum, Menier Chocolate Factory & Pippin

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Phantom of the Opera & Interview with Joanna Loxton - Madame Firmin & Cover Madame Giry

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting disability access and awareness to the arts.

Today's post continues on with Access London's popular series on the Phantom of the Opera. Since our last Phantom post, tickets have gone on sale for the first venue in Phantom's 2012 UK tour - Plymouth. The tour opens in February and runs from 27 February until the 31 March 2012.

Access performances in Plymouth include - Audio Described: Sat 17 March 2.30pm and Thu 22 March 2.30pm. Captioned: Thu 15 March 2.30pm and Fri 30 March 7.30pm
Signed: Sat 24 March 2.30 pm and Thu 29 March 7.30pm
For all details on how to book and for indepth access information for the theatre, please SEE THEIR WEBSITE

Back in London, Phantom's home is at Her Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket. As of this week, the mid-week matinee will be on Thursdays at 2.30pm, all other performance times are unchanged (Monday-Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm and Saturday matinee at 2.30pm).

Her Majesty's Theatre has level access for wheelchairs, scooters and those who cannot manage stairs on Charles II street. Simply make yourself known to someone at the front of the theatre (usually someone is around from 40 minutes before a performance) and they will escort you around to the side entrance. This entrance leads into the rear of the stalls.

The stalls have a gentle rake, storage area for wheelchairs and scooters and accessible WC. There are spaces for 4 wheelchairs in row S in the stalls. If you can transfer, any aisle seat in the stalls can be booked (subject to availability). An usher is assigned to help and assist those in the wheelchair spaces and transfer seats.

There is an infra-red hearing loop system with 10 headsets available to use - these can be collected from the cloakroom or ask a member of staff (a receipt needs to be signed). 2 assistance dogs per performance are permitted at Her Majesty's. Large print programmes and braille cast lists are also available upon request. Overall, Her Majesty's is very accessible and has some of the most disability aware staff I know of in any London theatre!

To book Access Tickets for Phantom (currently from £22.50 each for you and a companion/carer in the stalls!) please call: 0844 412 4648. For all other tickets, please call: 0844 412 4653.

Today's cast interview is with Joanna Loxton who is currently playing Madame Firmin in Phantom and who also covers Madame Giry. Access London would like to say a Huge Thank You to Joanna for taking the time out to answer some questions.

AL: How does it feel to be part of the cast of Phantom during its 25th year?
JL: It feels wonderful! I have returned to the show having been in the cast several years ago. I loved it back then and am even more delighted to have come back at this time to celebrate its 25th year.

AL: Why do you believe that the show is so successful and has audiences returning again and again?
JL: Because of all the elements happening to fit together so perfectly. Its beautiful music combined with a heart breaking love triangle storyline, its dark mystery and its stunning design by the late Maria Bjornson. It just appeals to so many people around the can't help but fall in love with it.

AL: How did it feel to perform at the 25th anniversary performances with such a large company?
JL: It was such a gift. Not only was it an honour to be part of it, it was also like a huge reunion of people I have worked with over the years. The Phantom company is like no other company. It's one big family who love each other, so the concert was just one big extended happy family reunion.

AL: What was your most memorable moment from the 25th anniversary performances?
JL: I think it must have been coming out into the auditorium during tech and looking around at the set and experiencing a piece of what the audience would be getting. I knew that that feeling would stay strong in my memory for a very long time.

AL: You've recently performed your first few shows as Madame Giry in the 2011/2012 cast, what was that experience like?
JL: Amazing. I have always loved the character because she is the dark horse and holds alot of information about the Phantom's history and background. I went on earlier than expected and just had such a huge buzz. As I said before, there is alot of love in the company and I was hugely supported.

AL: What do you like most and what do you like least about Madame Giry's character?
JL: Madame Giry is the quiet mysterious one...I love that about her because it's all very internal and tense and it's fun to portary that on a stage. She also has to bang her stick challenge is to do it as loudly as I can! Only thing I'm not so keen on is climbing up to the bridge in a long skirt very quickly...but that's pretty minor.

AL: Madame Giry's costume is probably one of the most subdued in the entire show, compared to some of the brightly coloured pieces that other characters wear. Do you have a favourite costume to wear?
JL: I do love Giry's costume despite its lack of colour because as soon as you're in it you feel in character...but also I'm very lucky to have some amazing costumes in my ensemble plot. My favourite is my purple Madam Firmin's stunning, and very expensive!

AL: Do you have a favourite song/scene to perform and why?
JL: I LOVE the managers scenes as Madame Giry. I think they are so well written and so full of minor detail. You can follow one character during the number and get so much information about them.

AL: If you could play any role in any musical, what would it be and why?
JL: I have always loved the character Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and would love to play her. I enjoy comedy and haven't had much opportunity to use it in my career so far.

AL: Do you have a birthday message for Phantom and its fans?
JL: I would like to say that Phantom appreciates it's fans so much. You're the reason we are still here at 25 and we want you to know we hold as much love for it onstage as you guys do from out front!

Thank you once again Jo!

Joanna is currently scheduled to play Madame Giry on the following dates: 3-5 November and 1-3 December. If you can get to see her at all on those dates, please do!

You can also follow Joanna on Twitter @joloxton

COMING SOON: The Globe, The V&A, The Lyric, Phantom & Interview with Stephen John Davis

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dreamboats and Petticoats @ The Playhouse & Cast Interview with Patrick Burbridge

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for continuing to support disability access and awareness to the arts in London.

"Inspired by the smash hit million selling albums DREAMBOATS AND PETTICOATS ONE, TWO and THREE, the West End's DREAMBOATS AND PETTICOATS THE MUSICAL, features some of the greatest hit songs of the Rock 'n' Roll era."

Playing at The Playhouse on Northumberland Avenue, Dreamboats and Petticoats features some of the biggest rock 'n' roll hits from the 50's.

Access @ The Playhouse:

The Foyer of The Playhouse is on two levels - there are three steps up to the bar area and entrance to the stalls. The theatre has a ramp that can be placed over these steps to allow access for both wheelchairs and scooters (although be warned, it is a little steep!). Once on the upper level, there is access to the Foyer Bar and an accessible WC. From here there is level access into the rear of the stalls, which has a gentle rake and a storage area for wheelchairs and scooters if you can transfer out.

If you require a wheelchair space, there are 2 in the stalls, in rows G and J, where a companion/carer can sit with you. If you can transfer, then there is allocation for 6 wheelchair or scooter transfers per performance to sit in any aisle seat in the stalls (subject to availability of course).

The Playhouse is installed with a Sennheiser infra-red sound amplification system that is available in all areas of the auditorium - to access the system, you will need to request receiving equipment from the box office in the foyer (small refundable deposit required) - both Induction Loop Necklaces and Headsets are available.

Assistance dogs are permitted into the auditorium at aisle seats, otherwise they can be looked after by staff during the performance. Currently, there are no audio described or captioned performances at The Playhouse.

There are performances of Dreamboats and Petticoats Monday-Friday Evenings at 7.30pm and Saturday Evenings at 8.00pm. There are also matinee performances on Thursdays at 3.00pm and on Saturdays at 4.00pm.

To book concession Access tickets to Dreamboats and Petticoats, please call: The Ambassador's dedicated Access Line on 0844 871 7677. For all other ticket types, please call: 0844 871 7627.

Access London recently had the pleasure of interviewing cast member Patrick Burbridge. We'd like to take this opportunity to once again say a huge Thank You to Patrick for taking the time to answer some questions...

AL: Dreamboats and Petticoats is a lively, fun and upbeat show, what is it like to be part of the cast?
PB: It's an absolute pleasure to be a part of such a great show. I've been in Dreamboats and Petticoats since it started way back in January 2009 and I've never stopped loving it. I've seen lots of different people come and go during my time as part of the cast and I've had the pleasure of working with some very talented performers. It's a real privilege to be in such a well received show.

AL: You play a character called Derek - can you tell us a bit more about him and his part in the story?
PB: Derek is a young teenager from St Mungo's Youth Club in Essex (scene of Dreamboats and Petticoats). He's either hanging out with the band, chatting up the girls, playing pranks and usually getting up to some form of mischief!

AL: You can play many instruments including, guitar, piano, sax and drums - what is your favourite instrument to play and why?
PB: My favourite instrument is the guitar. I've grown up listening to all sorts of rock music and from a young age I've always been obsessed with the guitar. I get a real thrill from playing guitar in bands and jamming great music. I also like to write my own music and I find the guitar is a great instrument to compose on.

AL: Do you get to use any of your instrument playing skills in the show?
PB: Absolutely. I'm an understudy for all three guitarists and the drummer so if they can't do a show for any reason, then it's my job to fill in for them. I've understudied in lots of shows during my time in Dreamboats and Petticoats. My usual role playing Derek also involves playing Keyboard.

AL: The Playhouse Theatre is a smaller venue than many West End theatres, does this allow you to feel more connected to the audience when performing?
PB: I think so, yes. Dreamboats and Petticoats is a rock and roll show, so I think it works best in smaller venues. This is because smaller venues are great for live music, you can create such a great atmosphere with rock and roll. It's much harder to create that atmosphere in bigger theatres because there is, quite simply, way more space to fill - you have to connect with audience members right at the back who seem almost miles away! There's also a limit to how loud you can turn up the music. You don't want to be deafening the front row by trying to make sure the back row have it at a decent level. Everyone watching should feel comfortable and be able to enjoy the performance.

AL: What is your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
PB: My favourite part of the show is the finale. At this point, the show stops being a musical and turns into a rock and roll concert with 3 fantastic 50's hits. Usually, all the audience are up and dancing and the atmosphere can be really electric. I get such a buzz when I look out at the audience singing and dancing along. There's a real unification between the cast and the audience at the end of each show, both rejoicing in the love of such wonderful music. I've never experienced anything quite like it and I'm so fortunate to be a part of that night after night.

AL: How do you prepare yourself before performing?
PB: Before a show the cast meets on stage and does a physical and vocal warm up together. The physical warm up, led by our dance captain, consists of doing lots of stretches to prevent injuries when dancing and perhaps running a couple of routines to keep everything in check. The vocal warm up, led by our musical director, consists of singing lots of scales, exercises and sometimes a couple of numbers from the show. This warms up the voice and makes sure that you don't strain it during the show. There are over 40 songs to sing after all! Emotionally, I like to get really psyched up before a show. I share a dressing room with 5 other guys and we all enjoy a good bit of banter and listening to some quite upbeat music. It's a good, positive and fun atmosphere that gets me geared up well to do the show, particularly if I'm a little tired or feeling a bit under the weather.

AL: Can you sum up why audiences will love the show?
PB: People don't refer to the 50's as the 'golden age of pop' for nothing. There was a real plethora of fantastic songs written back then and performed by some incredible artists and singers. Not only does Dreamboats and Petticoats bring all this music back to life, it sets it all within the magical nostalgia of the 50's. The storyline of children growing up in a youth club in Essex will bring back great memories for many people. The innocence of youth, coupled with the charm and love from a bygone era proves to be a wonderful platform for some of the greatest music ever written. Even if you didn't live through the 50's, I think the joy in the music is so infectious that you can't fail to have a good time.

AL: If you could play any role in musical theatre, what would it be?
PB: If ever a musical is made of Back To The Future, I'd do anything to be in it! It's my favourite film of all time.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter @patburbridge

COMING SOON: The Globe, Victoria & Albert Museum, The Lion In Winter, More from Phantom 25 and Interviews

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Phantom of the Opera & Interview with Christine Daae, Sofia Escobar

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for continuing to support disability access and awareness to the arts in London.

Access London has been posting about Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary on and off for the last 6 weeks. Today saw the final Tuesday matinee ever at Her Majesty's theatre. As of next week, the mid-week matinee will be on Thursdays at 2.30pm. There are no other changes planned for the evening performances or Saturday matinee.

It's certainly been a big few months for Phantom with a major cast change and anniversary rehearsals in September, three anniversary celebratory performances at the the Royal Albert Hall in October, changes to the schedule of its mid-week matinee and announcements about its brand new 2012 tour that will see John Owen Jones leaving Her Majesty's to don the mask from February-Setember, after which Earl Carpenter will reprise his role as the Phantom. The cast also includes current London alternate Christine, Katie Hall, playing Christine.

Our next post on Phantom will include some Access information for the first stop on the Phantom's tour, Plymouth, tickets for this venue go on sale from 27 October.

Back to London and Her Majesty's Theatre, Access as always, is pretty strong and FOH staff are some of the most helpful and disability aware I know of in any London theatre. There is level street access for those using a wheelchair, scooter or cannot manage stairs, through a side Exit door on Charles II Street - simply inform someone at the front of the theatre and they will open these doors for you. This entrance leads into the rear of the stalls.

Access Facilities at Her Majesty's include: 4 wheelchair spaces in row S in the stalls, storage for wheelchairs and scooters, transfer to aisle seats, accessible WC, gentle rake in the stalls, very helpful ushers, 2 assistance dogs per performance allowed, hearing loop with 10 headsets available, seats with extra leg room ( E1, E25, F1, F25, G1, G25, N1 and N28 in the Stalls).

For Blue Badge Holders, there are spaces located in both Charles II Street and St James' Square. Both of these locations have 3-4 hour time restrictions on them up until 6pm, after which they are unlimited in time allowance until the early morning.

To book Access tickets for Phantom of the Opera, please call: 0844 412 4648. For all other ticket types, please call: 0844 412 4653.

Access London is delighted to share with you another interview to celebrate Phantom's 25 years. Today's is with our fabulous London Christine, Sofia Escobar. We'd like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank You once again to Sofia for taking the time to answer some questions and for all her continued support.

AL: You've just extended your contract at Phantom for another year, until September 2012, are you excited about staying on during its 25th year?
SE: Very excited indeed! I wanted to stay for what I'm sure is going to be a very exciting time for Phantom of the Opera and all the Phans out there. It's a great honour to be part of such a magnificent production!

AL: Phantom is loved by audiences worldwide - why do you think it is so well-loved and has people coming back to see it time and again?
SE: It's a timeless piece of Musical Theater, it's got all the magic ingredients that have made it such a success all over the world, the story, the music, the love! It's pure magic. I'm sure it will be here to stay!

AL: The show has some truly spectacular sets and costumes - do you have any favourites?
SE: Christine's costumes are truly gorgeous but my personal favorite is the Blue Managers dress and cloak, I'd love to take it home with me after the contract! :)

AL: Phantom is getting a new UK tour for 2012 - are you aware of any changes to the show happening in London?
SE: Not that I know of, I dont think there will be any changes to the London production.

AL: The show has many special effects and technical elements throughout. Do you have a tale to tell of something going wrong/mishap during a performance?
SE: The other night in the final lair scene the boat didn't move so Phantom had to drag me out of the boat and did the scene walking in what should have been the lake... It was quite funny!

AL: What is the atmosphere like backstage during a performance?
SE: It's intense! Everyone knows what they're doing but there's always an awful lot going on backstage during a performance, it's quite a show! Lots of people running around with costumes, props! Actors in quick changes! A lot of fun! But I'm sure that for an outsider the whole thing would seem madness!

AL: Christine has rather a roller-coaster ride of emotions throughout the show. By the time the final lair scene arrives, what do you believe she is thinking and feeling?
SE: I believe she is extremely confused, hurt, sad and generally feeling lost. She doesn't know what to believe or who to turn to, I think she also feels alone but finds the strength within her to pull through and make her decisions. It really is a roller-coaster of emotions.

AL: You have played alongside several Phantoms during your time at Her Majesty's. Do they all play the role differently? And do you have to change the way you play Christine to suit their Phantom?
SE: Every actor brings their own way of playing the part to the show and that makes it very exciting when someone new comes in. I dont necessarily 'have' to change the way I play Christine but it happens naturally because I will be reacting to whatever the actor playing the Phantom gives me. It's more of an 'organic' change rather than a premeditated one.

AL: There have been productions of Phantom all over the world. If you could play Christine anywhere, where would it be and why?
SE: To be honest I wouldn't change where I am now. I always wanted to be in the London production, this is where it all started 25 years ago. Gives me shivers to think of it.

AL: Do you have a Birthday Message for Phantom and its fans?
SE: A huge thank you to all of you who love and support the show and have been doing so all through these years. Phantom turning 25 wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for all of you out there and all the wonderful audiences who keep coming to the show all over the world. Lots of love to all!

Thank You once again Sofia for that. You can see Sofia perform as Christine Daae at Her Majesty's until September 2012. Sofia performs 6 shows a week (currently Katie Hall performs the other 2) - as of 31st October, Sofia will not be performing on Mondays or Fridays. She is also on holiday from 27th October until 6th November.

To keep up with all of Sofia's news SEE HER WEBSITE
You can also follow her on Twitter @sofia_escobar
Sofia also has a page on Facebook

COMING NEXT: Dreamboats & Petticoats plus Cast Interview
COMING SOON: The Globe, London Coliseum, The Lion In Winter, More from Phantom 25 and cast Interviews

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary & Interview with Original Meg Giry, Janet Devenish

Welcome back to Access London and thank you for continuing to support disability access and awareness to the arts in London.

Continuing with Access London's celebrations for Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary and the brilliant Access at Her Majesty's theatre, today saw the release of the 2012 tour information. The 2012 tour will star John Owen Jones (the current London Phantom) in the lead role from the tour's start in February (Plymouth) until half way through the Edinburgh run in September. After this, former Phantom and co Three Phantoms star, Earl Carpenter, will take over the role on tour. Christine is to be played by the current London alternate, Katie Hall. Access London would like to take this opportunity to wish John Owen Jones, Earl Carpenter and Katie Hall all the very best for the tour next year!

For all the information on dates and booking info, please see the OFFICIAL SITE HERE

Although Access London predominately focuses on events and venues in London, we will be providing readers with as much Access information as we can on the venues hosting the 2012 tour as we realise that not everyone can make the journey to London to enjoy the show at Her Majesty's.

John Owen Jones was originally scheduled to play the Phantom in London until 17 March 2012. Due to the exciting news that he will be playing the role in the tour, his final performance at Her Majesty's Theatre will be on 10 December 2011. Between then and March 2012, Earl Carpenter will play the role of the Phantom in London until Peter Joback takes over, as originally planned, in March. Watch this space for more Access info on the tour venues.

John Owen Jones has also announced that his new album will be released around the same time that the tour commences.
You can also catch Earl Carpenter, John Owen Jones, Matthew Cammelle, Rebecca Caine (and at certain performances Rohan Tickell) in the Three Phantoms concerts. For concert dates and booking information, see the OFFICIAL THREE PHANTOMS WEBSITE

If you can't get to any of the tour dates next year, don't forget, you can always watch the original show in London at Her Majesty's theatre. Access information for this theatre is as follows....

If you are a wheelchair or scooter user, or cannot manage stairs, then there is a side entrance on Charles II Street that has level access to the rear of the stalls and also a storage area for chairs and scooters and an accessible WC. When you arrive at the theatre, simply ask someone at FOH (usually people outside from about 30-45 minutes before a performance starts) and they will escort you around to this entrance.

There are 4 wheelchair spaces (with companion seats) in Row S in the stalls. If you can transfer then any aisle seat in the stalls can be booked (subject to availability of course!). The stalls have a relatively gentle rake. People making an access booking are assigned an usher to assist them, although a companion must accompany each access booking made and both are entitled to the Access booking rate.

Charles II Street also has several blue badge bays along it - these are time restricted until 6.00pm but not afterwards. There are also several blue badge bays in St James' Square which is a few minutes walk away down Charles II Street.

Her Majesty's has an infra red system with 10 headsets available (a receipt needs to be signed at time of collection) - ask at the box office or any member of staff if you wish to use one. Assistance dogs can be looked after by staff during the performance - a maximum of 2 dogs per performance. Large print programmes and braille cast lists are also available upon request.

To book your access tickets for Phantom of the Opera, please call: 0844 412 4648.

Access London is delighted to be able to share with you another interview we did with a former cast member for the show. Today's interview is with Janet Devenish who was the original Meg Giry in the London production. We'd like to take this opportunity to once again say a huge thank you to Janet for takign the time to answer some questions.

Phantom was very different to any other productions that opened in the 80s. Did you have any idea at the time how well loved and huge it would become?
Not at all! Really - I could see it was a great show but I did not foresee how hugely popular it would become.

Were you required to be pretty skilled at ballet in order to audition for the role of Meg?
Yes - there was a lot of pointe work in the show and you cannot gain that skill overnight. I did a lot of work with Gillian Lynne during the audition process which confirmed my ballet skills and I loved it!

What was your favourite scene to perform in the production?
I loved dancing Masquerade, but I also loved working with the wonderful Mary Millar as my mother - so any time on stage with her was special time.

Have you seen the show since you left? If yes, has it changed much since you performed in it?
I have seen it few times, and each time it has been different. I think it has varied depending on the cast, but I was not aware of huge changes that had been made to the actual content of the show.

Would you ever have considered going back to Phantom after you left, perhaps as Mme Giry?
If only my vocals would allow.... I could not sing that role, but I could bang a mean stick!

I understand that you now teach and choreograph but, do you still perform aswell?
No - I train the talent of tomorrow!

Did you seen the Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies? If yes, what did you make of Meg's character in it?
I found it very hard to just watch the show and appreciate it for what it was, as I found myself thinking 'Meg wouldn't do that' or 'Mme Giry would not have expected that of Meg'. I saw it very early days into the run, perhaps I could be more detached now, having seen it once, but it was too personal at the time - all those years later I still felt the character in me.

Do you have a Birthday Message for Phantom of the Opera and its fans?
Keep the magic alive. Phantom was a truly memorable part of my life, and it has brought great pleasure to so many. Happy Birthday to the greatest show!

Janet is the Deputy Principal and teaches Dance and Musical Theatre at the Stella Mann College. She also teaches at the Rugby Youth Theatre - teaching and inspiring the performers of tomorrow.

COMING SOON: The Globe Theatre, The Lion In Winter, The Lyric Theatre, Phantom 2012 Tour Access Info, More from Phantom 25 including interviews with Sofia Escobar, Stephen John Davis and more...