Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Pre-Theatre Dinner @ Petrichor Restaurant in The Cavendish

Welcome back to Access London, thank you all for your continued support. I have had some fantastic feedback from my last two posts on The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This show closes on May 21, so don't forget to book your tickets soon. Access information available on the previous posts as well as details of a discount ticket offer.

Today's post is about the delicious pre-theatre dinner menu at The Petrichor Restaurant, located in The Cavendish Hotel. The Cavendish is our recommended hotel for 2011 - feel free to browse through our other posts on it. The hotel is easily accessible from the level access drop-off point on Duke Street, just off Jermyn Street and behind Fortnum and Masons. From here you can take any of the lifts from the reception area up to the first floor where the lounge and restaurant are located.

The restaurant itself has three shallow steps up to it. It has a hand rail on either side of these steps. If you use a wheelchair, mobility scooter or simply cannot manage the steps, there is a ramp available to assist you in entering the restaurant and every member of staff is more than happy to help in whatever way they can.

The pre-theatre menu runs from 5.30pm-6.30pm Monday-Thursday and 5.00pm-6.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The menu changes every 2 months and there is always a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian options. The menu is incredibly priced for a central London hotel at £15.50 for 2 courses or £20.50 for 3 courses.

The Head Chef, Nitin Padwal, creates his dishes from local produce, sourced from sustainable sources and all freshly produced. The Petrichor is an AA rosette awarded establishment and has a very relaxed atmosphere - an ideal dinner location before a night out at the theatre.

Examples of the April/May menu include:
Starters - Soup, Irish Beef Seared Fillet, Wiltshire River Trout or English Radish and Blue Cheese Salad.
Main: Spiced fillet of Sea Bream, Wicks Manor Pork Fillet with Truffle Croquettes, Chicken Ballotine with Blue Cheese and Smoked Bacon or Mille Feuille of Crispy, Homemade Tagliatalle with Wilted Beet Greens.
Desert: Cherry Sponge, Chocolate Tart and Banana Ice Cream, Homemade Ice Cream Selection, Cheese Board.

Located in Jermyn Street, 2 minutes from Piccadilly, the Cavendish and Petrichor are ideally located for visiting the West End theatres. To see the full menu and keep up to date for the menu change in June, please see their website HERE

If you wish to make a reservation and/or discuss access and dietary requirements, please contact the Petrichor on: 020 7389 3500

I am going away on holiday for a couple of weeks now, so this blog will sadly not be updated during that time. When I return, there is lots to look forward to with posts including: The Wizard of Oz, The Royal Parks, Tate Britain and The Mousetrap.

I am also delighted to announce that Access London will be joining in the celebrations for Phantom of the Opera's 25th Birthday this year. I will be running a piece on the show and Her Majesty's theatre on and off over the next few months with lots of interviews from current and former cast members, stay tuned for more information....

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg Cast Interviews - Part 2

Welcome back to Access London, thank you for your continued support towards disability access and awareness. Yesterday I posted about the marvelous show - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, currently playing at The Gielgud Theatre.

I came away from this show absolutely buzzing, it is a fantastic night out and quite a unique experience. For more about the show and also the access for those in a wheelchair, mobility scooter or not able to climb stairs, please scroll down to yesterday's post for all the information you need.

Also, a quick reminder about the special discounted seat offer - £20 for top price seats if you get in touch with me by leaving a comment here, emailing me at clairelouiseatroe@hotmail.com contacting me on Twitter @HorizonVA or contacting Chris Jenkins on Twitter @chrisjenko

As promised, I have another fantastic interview with a member of the cast today. Again, for yesterday's interview with Cynthia Erivo, please scroll down. Today's interview is with the charming Chris Jenkins, here's what he had to say...

AL: What can audiences expect from the show?
CJ: This show is like no other. So, audiences should not come with any expectations, I think that is the best way to approach this production. It really requires an open mind. It is basically a play sung through the beautiful music from our gorgeous band, a breath-taking set by Lez Brotherston and the usual Kneehigh physical charms from Emma Rice. When I first watched it (as I joined the cast in London), I was swept away into a dream world and it was beautiful. The best way to describe the show? - It's Life.

AL: Were you part of Umbrellas when it played in Leicester?
CJ: I was actually cast towards the end of the process and performances in Leicester. My role, for those who don't know, is Swing, which means we are here to learn everyone else's role incase someone becomes ill, injured or, takes a holiday. Due to the short length of performances in Leicester, Gillian (the other Swing) and I were not required. So, we went up to Leicester to watch the show and rehearse with the rest of the cast.

AL: As Swing, how much notice do you get to perfrom and know which role you are playing?
CJ: This can really vary! I have had well over a week's notice to cover for someone but, if someone gets injured you can get as little as a few hours. There was one time where I had to become part of the stage crew half way through Act 1 (a track I wasn't even meant to learn!) and still dance a Tango, then run off stage to get some props ready, that lasted for a few days. It really is an on-your-toes job! But it means that it's pretty impossible for me to get bored. I have a notebook that is full of notes for each role/track, it's my Bible right now.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
CJ: Now, I always get asked this question and I never know the answer! I have a tendency to love some really obscure musicals that no one has heard of. Ah yes, I've got a few...Legolas in Lord of the Rings, I absolutely loved that show. It was fantastic, the music, set and costumes were stunning. I saw it 4 times, the geek that I am. I'd also like to play Sidney Falco in The Smell of Sweet Success which is the musical adaption of the 1957 film with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster. Also, Anthony in Sweeney Todd.

AL: How do you prepare before a show?
CJ: For this show, it really requires an ensemble connection to make it work. We work as a family. So, we all come together before a show to warm up and play games, so that we are in a playful, receptive and generous atmosphere. Once that physical and vocal warm up is complete, if I'm covering someone that night, I have a very quick speed-run of the show, where I'm running about the stage, singing little bits of the show, muttering to myself, dancing at triple speed and generally looking a little bit crazy to the rest of the cast and Front of House team!

AL: You have extensive training and qualifications in stage combat, what would be the ultimate show to be part of to use these skills? Also, would you want to use these skills in film or tv?
CJ: It is rare to see a big-scale show demonstrating these skills and one of the rare occasions is on our footstep. Batman the Live Arena Tour! A friend of mine is choreographing it and I am very jealous of all that are getting to work on it because it is just going to be incredible. I am not a big Batman fan but, the combat is very clever and intricate which makes it very exciting. There are a lot of demonstrations of stage combat at castles and museums around the country, notable performances in London during the summer include the Tower of London and Hampton Court, which are well worth a watch. There are also demonstrations at The Shakespeare's Globe Exhibition where I perform occasionally.
Using these skills for film and tv is a bit of a different ball game, the technicalities of the combat are different, it's a skill within itself. I was cast for a film that was out recently called Ironclad with Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi and James Purefoy which was filming in Wales (where I'm from) 2 years ago to work with Richard Ryan (Fight Director. The Dark Knight, Stardust, Sherlock Holmes, Troy) but unfortunately, they had to lose half of us a week before filming. You really don't know if you've got the job until you're on-set filming.

AL: You have performed at many fantastic venues - The Royal Opera House London, The Royal Albert Hall, Wales Millennium Centre - Is there one venue that holds a special place in your heart? And why?
CJ: Royal Opera House is just a beautiful building. The history is overwhelming and I have a lot of very good memories at that place. It's one I'll never forget and I'm sure I'll be back there again. Royal Albert Hall is just huge! I think it seats around 5500 people - the sound when everyone applauds is really something. But I think the Wales Millennium Centre will always hold a special place in my heart because I worked front of house for a few years and saw hundreds of shows and was then lucky enough to have performed there too. It's my home town and it's a stunning new venue that brings in some fantastic theatre.

AL: What's next for you after Umbrellas?
CJ: I'm lucky enough to have another job after Umbrellas. I will Swing for the transfer of the Lincoln Centre Broadway production of South Pacific, which will open at The Barbican, London in August, prior to the UK tour.

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions and also to the whole cast and crew of Umbrellas for such an amazing performance and a fantastic night out. We wish Chris, Cynthia and the rest of the cast all the best in their next roles.

To keep up to date with all of Chris's news, visit his website HERE
You can also follow Chris on Twitter @chrisjenko

That's all for today but, don't forget, Umbrellas of Cherbourg closes at The Gielgud on May 21st. If you want to take advantage of the fantastic £20 a seat offer, please get in touch by leaving a comment, emailing me at clairelouiseatroe@hotmail.com or getting in touch on Twitter with either myself @HorizonVA or with Chris @chrisjenko

Friday, 6 May 2011

Umbrellas of Cherbourg & Cast Interviews

Welcome back to Access London, thank you all for your continued support for disability access and awareness in London. Today's post is the first of two on the Kneehigh production of 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' at The Gielgud Theatre.

I saw this show last night and had a fabulous time - lots of laughs and a few tears too. The production was originally performed in Leicester but then transfered to the West End early in the Spring. The tag line 'A French Romance That Just Happens To Be Sung' says it all. Set in Cherbourg in the 1950s, Umbrellas tells the tale of a young woman who falls in love, only to suffer the loss when her lover is called up to the army. Discovering she is pregnant, she must make the difficult choice of waiting for her love to return or to marry a rich businessman who asks for her hand in marriage.

This show is the most unique performance I have seen in a long time. It is very interactive with the audience at times and the set is imaginative and very cleverly crafted. The style of singing words, rather than songs and the talented performers make this show one not to be missed.

Sadly, Umbrellas is closing on 21st May so if you would like to see it, you need to be quick. I definitely recommend it for a night out with a differnce.

I am delighted to announce that for those wishing to see this show, I can obtain a great deal on tickets for you - £20 for top tickets. Simply leave a comment, email me at clairelouiseatroe@hotmail.com or contact me on Twitter @HorizonVA .

The Gielgud Theatre itself is located on Shaftesbury Avenue, just behind the Trocadero and 1 minute's walk from Piccadilly Circus. If you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, this theatre is accessible. As it is a basement theatre (stalls located at basement level), it is the dress circle that is accessible without stairs. There are two spaces for wheelchairs if you cannot transfer from your chair. If you can transfer, there are a few more options within the dress circle. The theatre are extremely helpful and you will be met by a member of the Front of House team on arrival who will assist you before and after the performance and also during the interval. There is an accessible toilet also. If you have any special requests relating to mobility and seating, please let them know at the box office. The Access Line is: 0844 482 5137 Alternatively, contact me with your requirements and I will try and help get the seats you require - I am a mobility scooter user myself and cannot manage stairs.

Access London has been fortunate enough to be able to speak with a couple of cast members and ask them a few questions about the show. First up, Cynthia Erivo, who plays Madeleine....

AL: You play Madeleine in Umbrellas. What is her part in the story and have you enjoyed playing her?
CE: I guess you could say she's the sort of underdog of the whole thing, she's the girl who notices everything but is never noticed. She's a nurse, she takes care of Aunt Elise and is very much in love with Aunt Elise's nephew, Guy. Does she get him in the end? You'll have to wait and see!!

AL: What themes and emotions are most prevalent in the show?
CE: Love, Loss, Life, Contentment, Compromise

AL: The show is based on the film by Jacques Demy - has there been any pressure to stay true to the film or, has the show had the freedom to do its own thing?
CE: Well the music has stayed very true to the original film the only real thing that we've had license to adjust were the words, just so that the phrases in English work a little better. The play itself, how it's set, is much freer than the film, simply because we are on stage, how we set it was pretty much up to us, the cast.

AL: Were you part of the original cast that played in Leicester? If yes, what were the main differences between performing there and on the West End stage?
CE: Yes, I was part of Umbrellas in Leicester. I suppose one of the main differences was the theatre itself, it was a little easier to mingle at the top of the show - we had two walk-ways, so getting in and amongst people was easy as pie, here it's a little different.
The show itself was constantly changing in small ways, whether it be, movement, entrances, costume, words....it's what's kept it fresh.

AL: How do you prepare yourself before performing?
CE: Physically, we do a vocal and physical warm-up that ensures that we don't hurt ourselves onstage and gives us a moment to get together as a company before the show starts.
I personally love listening to music whilst I get my make-up and costume on, I guess it gets me in the right frame of mind to do a show.
Once the show goes up, I have an on-going through thought that combines some of my life experiences to my character's, so that I feel like the things that she/I sing/say are completely connected. It might not always work, but I try my very best.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be and why?
CE: Hmmm...this is a hard one because I would be lying if I said there weren't many but, if I had to narrow it down, I think it's a toss-up between Effie in Dream Girls and Celie in The Colour Purple! I just think they are incedible roles, they have wonderful storylines and wonderful songs, both of these characters would be a huge challenge! What more could you want from a character?

AL: Do you have an album out with your solo work?
CE: I don't have an album out with my solo work just yet but, I am working on it and you can hear some of it on my myspace.

AL: What's next for you after Umbrellas?
CE: Well immediately after this show, I'm not sure, I'm in the middle of auditioning for a few things, so fingers crossed! I have a gig at the Indig02 on June 7th and I guess what happens after, I won't know until I know.

Access London would like to offer a huge Thank You to Cynthia for taking the time to answer our questions and also for being part of a cast that gave us a great night out. To listen to some of Cynthia's music, check out her myspace account HERE
You can also find her on Twitter @CynthiaEriVo

The second part of our Umbrellas post is live tomorrow, including an interview with another cast member, Chris Jenkins.

In the meantime, don't forget, you can contact me for a super price for Umbrellas tickets until May 21st. Alternatively, you can contact Chris Jenkins on his Twitter account @chrisjenko Simply say you have read this blog post and you are asking about the £20 ticket offer.

Until tomorrow, I will leave you with the promo video for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg...