Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting disability access and awareness in the Capital.
Today's post is dedicated to the hugely popular and entertaining show that is Priscilla! Performed at The Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, the show is a bright, colourful night out!
Unfortunately, The Priscilla bus is shutting its doors and leaving The Palace at the end of the year so if you haven't already seen the show, or want to see it again, make sure you book tickets soon!
For wheelchair and scooter users there is a shallow (about 3cm) step into the theatre though an Exit door on Shaftesbury Avenue - there is a ramp available to get up this also. Simply go to the front of the theatre and someone from FOH will escort you around to the entrance and assist you. This entrance leads into the back of the stalls (this area also has an accessible WC). There is space for 2 wheelchairs at the back of the stalls, with an adjacent companion seat. Alternatively, if you can transfer, you can book any aisle seat in the stalls. The theatre can store up to 5 wheelchairs and 1 scooter per performance.
Assistance dogs are allowed into the auditorium or staff can sit them during the performance (maximum of 4 dogs per performance). There is also an induction loop system at The Palace. There is no step-free access to a bar but staff are happy to go and fetch drinks for you at the interval - I found all staff to be amazingly helpful at The Palace and would like to send out a big Thank You to all.
To book Access tickets to see Priscilla, please call: 0844 412 4648 (current Access price is £25.00 per ticket for disabled person and 1 companion, seated in the stalls!). For all other ticket types, please call: 0844 755 0016.
Access London had the opportunity to speak with one of the cast members recently and would like to say a huge Thank You to Steven Cleverley for taking time out to chat. Here's what he had to say....
AL: When did you first become involved with the show?
SC: I've been doing the show now for two and a half years, I was in the original London cast and went through the whole rehearsal process. We did 6 weeks at the rehearsal space, called Jerwood Space, which is based over in London Bridge. So, we were there for 6 weeks with that and then we came into the theatre and did tech and everything, so I've been doing it for quite a long time.
It's nice because we're all like a family, we don't just come in and do our job, we spend a lot of time with one another - it is your extended family. We all get along well and have lots of laughs backstage.
AL: What was the audition process like?
SC: I got the audition through my agent. I'd just finished Le Cage Aux Folles so they said 'oh we think you'd be perfect for this' and I knew the casting director and she knew I had done drag before. So I went along to the audition process and I think I went to about 9 or 10 auditions. It was a really long process, especially because they were doing an original cast. I got offered the job in the August and then it took 6 months for the actual job to start. Obviously the creative team had to come over from Australia and it's not like it's round the corner so they came for long stints at a time, about 3 months.
It was actually quite painful trying to find out if I'd got it or not - I was sat at home waiting for the phone to ring - I couldn't believe it when I got the phone call!
AL: Did you realise at the time it would be such a long process for the production to start?
SC: Well the phone did ring at one point and they asked me to come back and read for....because I cover one of the parts in the show, Miss Understanding, so they called me back and said 'we'd really like you to come in and go through the script and do the song again'. From then until getting the phone call, I think it was about 4 or 5 weeks.
AL: You play more than one role in the show?
SC: Yeah I play Farrah and Young Bernadette
AL: What's it like playing more than one part?
SC: Well the thing is, everyone has their own little feature bits and then obviously you do your bits in the ensemble. We are always busy changing...I go from being a girl, being a drag queen, to being a man, then I go to being a paintbrush and things like that. And then in the interval I've got 15 minutes to get my drag make-up back on and go on again to play Young Bernadette and then I'm back to being a boy but I've still got a full face of make-up - so I keep my head down and have sunglasses on to hide the drag make-up.
AL: So with that many extreme costume changes, I assume it's all a bit manic?
SC: Yeah, it's crazy! The fastest change I do is I've got about a minute to get out of a cupcake and into a drag casino outfit and then come on - and I've got to be there as I've got a line. When we first started I was thinking, 'I'm never going to make this' and then now I just sort of walk round the back really breezy.
AL: Do you have a favourite costume?
SC: Young Bernadette, it's a big, spectacular costume - it's massive and lots of feathers.
AL: Any favourite songs in the show?
SC: My favourite is actually MacArthur Park when we're all dressed up as cupcakes because you look out to the audience and everyone's happy, smiling - that's probably my favourite bit.
AL: How do you prepare before a show?
SC: Normally, in our dressing room, I share with two of the boys, we've got our music playing very loud and having a laugh. I'm going onstage as an over the top drag queen - I've not really got to think about what I'm doing, it comes naturally. It is hard to wind down after, we go for a drink or like tonight I've got to go and do a gig afterwards. It's such a party atmosphere in a show like this, you can't often just go home.
AL: What's The Palace like as a theatre to perform in?
SC: It's great! I mean this building has got so much history with the shows that have been here. I mean, Les Mis was here for years and I remember coming here to watch it with a school trip and we went onto the stage to get shown the set - to think however many years later I am actually performing on that same stage is crazy!
AL: If you could play any part in any musical, what would it be?
SC: I would love to be a drag Velma Kelly in Chicago - do something like that, just because it's so camp! I've always wanted to be in Cats, that was the kind of show that got me into dancing, I loved it.
AL: What would you say to people that haven't seen the show yet?
SC: I think they should see it because it's a really feel good show and there's not many productions like this around. You can walk in here having had a miserable day and just forget about it all for 2 and a half hours - it's a really fun night out. We see people in the audience clapping and dancing away - I think London needs that right now.
AL: Lastly, if you could be in a production anywhere in the world, where would it be?
SC: Well I'd love to go over to Broadway and do something. I'd also like to work in Germany - my friend works there in Starlight Express and I've visited the country a lot - Actually, I'd love to do Starlight Express over there.
AL: Can you skate?
SC: No, not very well, but I could do skate school. I'd probably fail though, I'm so clumsy!
A huge Thank You once again to Steven for answering those questions. Remember, if you want to see the show, it closes on 31 December 2011, so get booking!!
COMING NEXT: More from Phantom 25 & Interviews
COMING SOON: Billy Elliot, Globe Tours and Exhibition, 39 Steps