Saturday, 28 January 2012

The London Coliseum & English National Opera

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

Located on St Martin's Lane, The London Coliseum is home to the English National Opera.

The Coliseum is widely accessible and even has its own Access Scheme for those with disabilities. There is a permanent ramped entrance from St Martin's Lane into the foyer area which is spacious and all on one level. The box office is to the right if you are collecting or buying tickets or if you wish to sign up to the Access Scheme (highly recommended). The foyer slopes downwards towards the entrance to the Stalls and Stalls Boxes or, there is a lift up to the dress circle and balcony.

If you are a wheelchair user and cannot transfer into a theatre seat, there are spaces in the Stalls (2), Dress Circle (2) and Stalls Boxes (4). If you are a scooter user and can't transfer, the stalls boxes are the best option as they have the most room. If you can transfer, there are options of transfer seats in the Dress Cirlce and Balcony. There are adapted WCs on four out of five levels including, Stalls, Dress Circle and Balcony. The bars and restaurant are all accessible too. There is a lift in the foyer that goes to all levels.

There is an enhanced sound system that can be used with headphones and can be accessed by enquiring at the information desk in the main foyer. The ENO also offers sign-interpreted performances for most of its productions.

The ENO's Access Scheme entitles those with a disability access to half price tickets, priority booking and access guides and information. I highly recommend the scheme - it is free and easy to sign up to and, for most, will only require a photocopy of your blue badge or equivalent proof in order to sign up to it.

When signing up to the scheme, you will also be offered a CD, Braille or Large Print version of the season brochure if you require it. Braille and large print versions of cast lists and synopses are also available. The application asks that you give relevant information so that the box office can assist in booking the most appropriate seats for you.

To sign up to the ENO's Access Scheme, contact 0871 472 0800 or email

The nearest blue badge bays to the Coliseum are in St Martin's Lane, St Martin's Street and Charing Cross Road.

Upcoming productions and performances at the Coliseum include:

Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss)
Performances on: 1, 4, 11, 17, 24, 27 February

The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach)
Performances on: 10, 16, 18, 23, 29 February and 2, 6, 8, 10 March

The Death of Klinghoffer (John Adams)
Performances on: 25, 28 February and 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 March

The Flying Dutchman (Wagner)
Performances on: 28 April and 1, 5, 12, 16, 18, 23 May

For details of all productions and to book non-access tickets online, see the website

You can also follow the ENO on Twitter @E_N_O

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Phantom of the Opera - Cast Change & Interview with Katy Treharne

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 an update on the Access information for Her Majesty's Theatre and also features an interview with Katy Treharne who has returned to the Phantom cast as alternate Christine.

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 30 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 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). Two 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!

There are performances Monday-Saturday at 7.30pm and also matinees on Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm.

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 Katy Treharne who has returned to the cast of Phantom this week as alternate Christine. Once again, a huge Thank You to Katy for her continued support for Access London.

How do you feel about returning to Her Majesty's and Phantom of the Opera?

I am very excited to be taking up the Alternate role of Christine. I now have set dates performing every week and I get my name on the dressing room!

When you left the cast in September 2011, did you realise you would be returning so soon?

I hoped that one day I would return to Her Majesty's and felt my time there wasn't up. I didn't expect it to be four months later though, but it's a blessing, the time was right and I am very happy to be back.

When you were last in the show you covered the role of Christine, you are now returning as alternate. Are you looking to change anything in the way you play her?

I have been working with a new director since being back. His name is Sam Hiller and he is an actor himself and has made me think of things differently, I have changed a few of the choices I make in the show, dramatically and vocally to help tell Christine's story a lot clearer.

Since your last run, both the actors playing The Phantom and Raoul have changed. What are you most looking forward to about working with Earl Carpenter and Killian Donnelly?

I absolutely love working with both of them. I adapt well to change and find it exciting working with new people as they bring different things to the roles and help me find new things and keep it all fresh.

As Christine you have two iconic songs in 'Think Of Me' and 'Wishing'. Is there one that you prefer to sing and if so, why?

They are both so different in Christine's journey. It's hard to pick a favourite as Think of Me is right at the beginning so nerves are more present but I love singing it and wearing a beautiful costume and I also love singing the cadenza and the high notes! Wishing is very emotional and I have a huge attachment to this song as I relate it to my own personal experiences and it has a special place.

Her Majesty's is a theatre that provides pretty good access to those with disabilities but, what is it like as a theatre to perform in?

It's a wonderful theatre to perform in. With Phantom having been there 25 years, not much has changed and so you really feel you are walking in the footsteps of past actors and singers who have played these iconic roles and that these characters were born here.

What is your fondest memory from the last time you were part of Phantom?

My fondest memory was when I took my last bow when I played Christine the last time. When John Owen Jones took his bow he signalled to the audience to applaud me and that brought a tear to my eye. I was very humbled.

You can see Katy perform as Christine every Monday and Friday at Her Majesty's Theatre.
You can also follow Katy on Twitter @KatyTree

COMING SOON: Les Miserables and Matilda

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pippin @ Menier Chocolate Factory & Interview with Frances Ruffelle

Welcome back to Access London and a Happy New Year to all! Hoping you all enjoyed a lovely Christmas and New Year holiday. Access London's first post of 2012 is dedicated to the new production of Pippin, currently playing at The Menier Chocolate Factory and also a special interview with Frances Ruffelle.

"In this coming-of-age story, Pippin, heir to the throne of Charlemagne, ventures on a quest of self-discovery, but in doing so our hero must face the uncertain worlds of warfare, love, politics and religion.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (composer of Wicked and Godspell ) and book by Roger O. Hirson, The Menier Chocolate Factory’s new version has been completely re-conceived, directed and choreographed, incorporating Bob Fosse's original Tony Award-winning routines, by Mitch Sebastian."

The cast includes Harry Hepple, Carly Bawden, Frances Ruffelle, Matt Rawle and Ian Kelsey.

Pippin is running at the Chocolate Factory until the 25th February with performances Tuesday-Saturday evenings (8.00pm) and Saturday and Sunday Matinees (3.30pm). To book Access tickets and concessions, call the box office directly on 020 7378 1713.

Wheelchair access is via the main entrance on Southwark Street (the venue is not really suitable for scooters however). If you have any mobility or disability requirements, please explain to the box office when booking tickets so that they can arrange for any assistance needed and help you to book the most suitable seating for your needs. There is 1 space for a wheelchair at the front of the auditorium, with a space next to it for companion/carer. There are other options if you can transfer to a theatre seat. Unfortunately, there is no infra red loop system at this venue. However, it is a fairly intimate space so please explain any requirements at the box office when booking and they will arrange seating as close to the stage area as possible.

Access London is delighted to share with you an interview with Frances Ruffelle who plays Fastrada in Pippin. I'd like to again say a huge Thank You to Frances for taking the time to answer some questions....

AL: This new production of Pippin brings the story into a modern and cyber world, can you tell us anymore about this?

FR: It’s best for me not to spill too many beans… but yes, this Pippin is set in a virtual reality game world.

AL: This production has been completely re-conceived. But would it be correct to say it still includes Fosse's original routines?

FR: We do indeed have original Fosse routines and we also have some fosse-esque choreography. We were very lucky to have Chet Walker (who worked closely with Fosse) come teach us the real thing!

AL: What were the routines like to learn?

FR: Well to be honest my role doesn’t have very much original Fosse but I did learn some of the other routines and it was incredible to hear the original stories of their creation, especially the Gwen Verdon walk! Gwen was Pigeoned toed and had leg braces as a kid and Bob Fosse found a way to make her unique stance into a very sexy but quirky walk! I base my character's walk on that.

AL: The production has a great cast with yourself, Matt Rawle, Harry Hepple and Carly Bawden. What has it been like together as a company?

FR: We have a ball! We share a very big dressing room with a screen splitting the girls from the boys but we can hear everything each other is saying! It’s a complete laugh backstage. We play music and play tricks on each other. I sit next to Carly, she is the same age as my daughter and has great taste in music.

AL: What can you tell us of your portrayal of Fastrada?

FR: I chose to portray Fastrada as an Essex trophy wife! I thought quite topical for now with TOWIE and I was born in Essex (even though I don’t naturally have an essex accent). But she is clever and knows how to get what she wants but really she does not give a toss about anyone but herself and she thinks she is the business!

AL: As an off West End theatre, what is the Chocolate Factory like to perform in?

FR: I love the intimacy of working here in a small theatre but also it’s great to be in a theatre known for its incredible artistic successes and with its many supporters, we are lucky to have fabulously interested audiences.

AL: Do you have a favourite scene in the show?

FR: I love GLORY going into The Manson Trio, an epic dance/fight scene

AL: I know why I've booked tickets to see Pippin - the cast and to see the new take on it - but what would you say to people who are as yet undecided whether to come watch?

FR: If you like to be entertained this is the show! I watch whatever scene I am not in from the back because I can and I want to! I love it!

You can see Frances in Pippin at The Menier Chocolate Factory until the 25th February.

Frances also has her own show BENEATH THE DRESS that she will be performing at the Chocolate Factory on the evening of Sunday 12th February. You can book tickets for this via the WEBSITE or, for Access tickets, please call the box office on 020 7378 1713.

Frances' most recent album, 'Imperfectly Me' can be found on itunes or ordered from Dress Circle
You can also follow Frances on Twitter @frankieruff

COMING SOON: Les Miserables, Billy Elliot, Matilda