Thursday, 22 March 2012

Matilda The Musical and the Cambridge Theatre

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting Access for All to the Arts in London.

"Following a sensational sell-out season at The Courtyard Theatre, the RSC’s production of MATILDA THE MUSICAL has transfered to London’s West End.

Roald Dahl’s much-loved story bursts into life on stage in this brand new musical version by Dennis Kelly and award-winning musician and comedian Tim Minchin. Children and adults alike will be thrilled and delighted by the story of the special little girl with an extraordinary imagination.

The production is directed by Matthew Warchus and designed by Rob Howell with choreography by Peter Darling, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, musical supervision and orchestration by Christopher Nightingale, sound by Simon Baker and special effects and illusions are by Paul Kieve. The entire creative team has reassembled to create the London production."

Matilda the Musical is proving to be a huge hit at its new West End home, the Cambridge Theatre. Fun for kids, adults, the whole family.

The Cambridge Theatre is located in Covent Garden, just off of Shaftesbury Avenue. If you are travelling there in a wheelchair or scooter, just be aware that although the immediate area of Cambridge Circus is very easy to negotiate round, with all kerbs dropped, other streets in the area do have narrower pavements than others in the West End, so you may need to allow a little more time to travel to the theatre.

There are no steps into the foyer of the theatre, through two sets of double-swing doors. However, from here there are steps down into the stalls corridor and considerably more up to the dress and upper circles. All stairs have handrails either side and the steps are highlighted.

For wheelchair and scooter users and for those who cannot manage stairs, there is a level Access entrance through the third double exit door on Earlham Street. The theatre is open approximately 45 minutes before the show starts and if you notify someone at the main entrance, they will direct you to the Accessible entrance doors where someone will meet you. This leads straight into the Stalls corridor where there is also an accessible WC - please note however that this is the main corridor for all patrons to use before and after the show and during the interval. The accessible WC door opens out onto the corridor which can become extremely busy.

For scooter users and those who can transfer from a wheelchair, scooters and chairs are left in this corridor. There is a slight slope down into the Stalls. For those who need to remain in their chair, there are 2 spaces for wheelchair users in the Stalls at N1 and N34. For those that can transfer, any aisle seat in the Stalls can be booked (subject to availability). The theatre can store up to 4 wheelchairs and 2 scooters per performance.

For those requiring extra leg room, aisle seats and seats J1 and J8 have the most and also Box A, although this can only be accessed via 3 steps. The auditorium is fitted with an infra red system and the box office has a loop system fitted. There are 8 headsets available for use during the performance and these can be collected from the foyer. Assistance dogs are allowed into the auditorium. Alternatively, staff can dog-sit during the performance (maximum of 4 dogs per performance).

Unfortunately, feedback seems to show that staff at The Cambridge are not always that helpful and could be more disability aware. Although physically the theatre is accessible, please be aware that assistance there is not always that great and therefore if you do require help, it is best to take advantage of the second Access rate ticket you can obtain at the time of booking.

To book Access tickets to see Matilda the Musical (currently booking until 21st October 2012), please call the Access Booking Line on 0844 412 4648 - Access rates are subject to availability at each performance and don't forget the rate applies to both you and 1 companion, which equates to a fairly good discount for Stalls tickets.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Barbican and Mark Llewelyn Evans Charity CD

Located in the City of London, The Barbican is home to an Arts and Conference Centre, Gallery and two Theatres: The Barbican and Silk Street Theatres. The venue hosts concerts, shows, exhibitions, and talks.

The Barbican is completely accessible to those using a wheelchair or mobility scooter. However, it is a large venue and so for those who find walking difficult, The Barbican does have three wheelchairs for visitors' use, subject to availability; these can be pre-booked by calling the Box Office on 020 7638 8891. The main entrance on Silk Street is ramped and has lifts nearby, allowing access to all levels within the Barbican.

An induction loop is provided in the Concert Hall and Cinema. Visitors with hearing aids can make use of this facility by switching their hearing aid to the 'T' position. A radio network system is provided in the Theatre and Pit - visitors with hearing impairments may benefit from this facility. Headsets can be collected from Theatre Stalls Right prior to performance.

Assistance dogs may be taken into the auditoria or left with a member of staff. Adapted WCs are provided on Levels -2, -1, G, 1, 2, 3 & 4.

The Barbican also has its own Access Membership Scheme - this allows those with disabilities to register your requirements for free so that your needs can be met. The scheme also entitles you to the fantastic Access Rate tickets for shows and concerts. You can also pre-book a blue badge car parking space at The Barbican and park for free - to do this, book your space with the box office on 020 7638 8891 and when you arrive at the theatre, take your show ticket to the box office and they will provide you with a free exit ticket for the car park. To book tickets and find out more about the Access Membership Scheme please visit

Welsh Baritone, Mark Llewelyn Evans, recently performed at The Barbican in HMS Pinafore. On the 18th March 2012, Mark released a charity CD in support of the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal Fund. The Fund raises money for the Welsh Guards and their families. The CD is called 'Tell My Father' and also includes the support track 'Men of Harlech'. The CD can be purchased in iTunes and Amazon for £2.58.

Immediate - Press Release - 13th March 2012

Welsh baritone Mark Llewelyn Evans (brother of tenor Wynne; Gio Compario) joins ranks with the Welsh Guards to launch a fund raising CD to support Welsh troops and their families as they are deployed to Afghanistan again this week.

The CD - a double single - called Tell My Father - with support track ‘Men of Harlech’, the regimental slow march of the guards - has been made with the generous support of many artists and technicians, all of whom gave their time and talents for free, in order to raise funds for The Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal Fund.

The hope is to raise £50,000 by Remembrance Sunday this year. As increasing numbers of young soldiers are wounded or die, more & more pressure is put on money available from other sources and so, The Welsh Guards created their own fund to help soldiers and their families who are suffering as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Soldiers like Guardsman Dale Leach who lost a leg and was flown home with a shattered spine, not expected to live. Amazingly he survived but now requires special support and care and has to live with his parents. The fund has helped them to make improvements and adjustments to their home to accommodate Dale’s injury requirements. Parents of soldiers who have lost their lives also find solace in helping the fund like the mother of Lance Corporal Dane Elson, killed in 2009, who helps to manage the fund’s website.

Mark Llewelyn Evans stepped forward after the he was approached by the Welsh Guards who had heard him singing ‘Tell My Father’. A successful soloist, Mark has performed in musicals and opera as well as with Katherine Jenkins for the Welsh Rugby Union. Last year he was asked by Guy Ritchie to appear in the new Sherlock Holmes film A Game of Shadows. The CD also features The Regimental Band of the Welsh Guards, Llantrisant Male Choir & renowned Welsh actor Richard Elfyn.

The Guard’s Colonel and patron, HRH The Prince of Wales speaks in support of the fund -
“It is vital that those Welsh Guardsmen who have given so much to this country and their Regiment know that they and their dependents will be cared for and supported should the need arise. The Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal will play a key role in providing this support in the short and the long term, as the wider Regimental family plays its part. I commend the Appeal and ask all those who can to support its admirable work.”

The Guards are also performing in a 3 night concert tour in Wales on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of March to support the appeal.

The CD, to be launched on the 18th March, is available on iTunes and Amazon at £2.58

You can read more about the appeal and charity on their official website and also donate to the fund at...

To hear sound clips from the sound and for more information about Mark and his forthcoming performances and concerts, see his website at

You can also follow Mark on Twitter @markllew

COMING SOON: Matilda, Singin In The Rain, Lion King

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Opera Seria's Anna Bolena @ The Royal Northern College of Music

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting Access for All to the Arts. Today's post is a little different as it looks at a venue and performance outside of London. Occasionally I post on Arts venues outside of the Capital if I feel they have particularly good Access and facilities for those with disabilities.

"Opera Seria is a semi-professional, Manchester-based, chamber opera company, formed to put on a series of high-quality productions of lesser-performed operas (and a few favourites) in their original language for Manchester and the North West of England."

This June, Opera Seria will present their debut production, Donizetti's Anna Bolena, at The Royal Northern College of Music. Performances will be on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June 2012.

"The opera portrays the final days in the life of England's ill-fated queen driven to insanity by her unfaithful husband. The production features an international cast of emerging operatic professionals and a chorus of talented community members and local music students."

I recently spoke with Rochelle Hart who will be playing Anna Bolena in the production and who is also a founding member of the Opera Seria company. Here's what she had to say about Opera Seria and its debut production...

AL: Can you tell us more about who Opera Seria are?
RH: Opera Seria was founded with the interest of giving emerging artists more opportunities to sing roles they might otherwise not get to sing early in their career. We sing everything in its original language, which gives our soloists not only valuable stage experience, but also experience in performing in foreign languages. This will help them as they emerge into the professional world.

We also aim to be accessible to the community. It’s unfortunate that opera has been branded as high brow in the past, and that people are not as interested in going to hear opera (particularly if it’s in a foreign language). We feel that people are missing out on beautiful music, so aim to perform the productions in creative and engaging ways. We’ll also be holding pre-show talks for anyone interested in learning more about the performance they are about to see, running workshops for babies and tweens to get them interested in classical music, and invite local community members to join the chorus or help out backstage. This keeps the operas we produce engaging for not only the soloists, but the community as well.

AL: As a founding member of Opera Seria, what led you to the decision to become involved with this new company?
RH: As an emerging artist myself, I look for any opportunities to build up my experience and to just sing. Opera Seria seemed like the perfect opportunity to utilise my ‘office’ skills but also to get out there and share my love of singing with audiences in Manchester. I also saw there was a hole for a good professional company based in Manchester, and thought it was time that there was one. There are lots of great amateur companies, and Manchester is lucky to be on the touring list for great companies like Opera North and Heritage Opera, but as far as having a ‘home’ opera company, outside the RNCM and the local amateur groups there just isn’t one.

AL: Anna Bolena marks Opera Seria's debut production. Why this piece?
RH: To be honest, we chose Anna Bolena before we realised the Met was doing it and didn’t know there would be a lot of hype about it. We wanted to do something that wasn’t often performed in the UK, to make us stand out from the other companies. The idea was to do something not in the standard rep for smaller groups, staying away from things like La Traviata and Carmen, which are done to death. We wanted something fresh and new, knowing it was a risky move. People go to see La Traviata because they know it, they recognise the music, they can relate to it. People won’t know Anna Bolena in the same way. I think the Met having done it recently will help our cause, as it will be in people’s minds and it’s not been done in the UK recently, but it will still be a hard sell as the music isn’t going to be familiar to people. There is no Queen of the Night aria for people to nod along to, no Brindisi to have them tapping their feet. What they will get, though, is beautiful music by a fabulous composer, sung by some exciting young soloists. There is lust, betrayal and beheadings – what more could an opera goer want?

AL: Are cast members current/founding members of Opera Seria or were auditions held?
RH: Cast members are a combination of founding members and soloists that were found during auditions. While the founding members are experienced soloists in their own rights who want the opportunity to perform, we also want to give the same opportunities to other aspiring opera stars, so do hold auditions to share the love and give others the same opportunities.

AL: What are the most enjoyable aspects of putting on this productions? And, what are the most challenging ones?
RH: Marketing and fundraising is a massive challenge for an unknown opera company doing a less-than-popular opera, but the excitement of the creative process in seeing it all come together is extremely exciting. I think the end product will be something we can all be proud of, and will put Opera Seria on the map as one of the one-to-watch smaller professional companies in the North West.

AL: What can audiences expect from Anna Bolena?
RH: Like I said above – lust, betrayal and beheadings! Beautiful music, a lot of drama and an interesting and creative retelling of the final days in the life of Anne Boleyn. It’s a pretty fantastic story, and we get some excellent costumes to boot!

AL: What can we expect from Opera Seria after June 2012?
RH: We’ll be doing a run of fully staged productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in November, followed by a costumed concert of Roberto Devereux at Manchester Cathedral in January 2013. We’ve got some other pretty big ideas lined up for 2013 – watch this space!

A huge Thank You once again to Rochelle for taking the time to answer some questions. To keep up to date with all of Rochelle's news, see her website . You can also follow her on Twitter @raketje

For more information on Opera Seria, Anna Bolena and their other productions, see their website . You can also follow the company on Twitter @OperaSeriaUK


Access Information for RNCM:

"For events listed as ‘Promoted by RNCM’ disabled patrons can purchase tickets at the concessionary rate. Where a personal assistant is required to enable them to attend they can purchase two tickets with 50% off the full price. Wheelchair users can purchase up to two tickets with 50% off the full price. Please call the box office on 0161 907 5555 for further information.

The RNCM offers a range of facilities to disabled patrons. Please call Reception on 0161 907 5300 to reserve a disabled parking space. Wheelchair access is available, via lifts, to all performing venues and public spaces and we have low-level counters available at the Box Office and Bar. There are disabled toilet facilities on all levels. Guide dogs are admitted, please advise the Box Office when booking your ticket if you are bringing a guide dog.

The RNCM Concert Hall and RNCM Theatre are fitted with Sennheiser infra-red hearing assistance systems and receivers. They are available from Front of House staff on request. Receivers can be used in conjunction with a normal hearing aid (which should be switched to the ‘T’position) or an earpiece available at the venue. Studio Theatre, Carole Nash Recital Room and Lecture Theatre are fitted with induction loops (hearing aids should be switched to the ‘T’ position). Large print and audio versions of this brochure are available from the Box Office (also on disc or by email). Please call the Box Office on 0161 907 5555 for all other detailed information for disabled visitors."

For more information on The Royal Northern College of Music visit