Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Queen's Theatre Access Update & Q&A with Soprano Victoria Farley

Since Access London's last post on the Queen's Theatre (home to Les Miserables), there have been improvements made to the physical Access at the theatre. Previously there were problems with one of the doorways in the theatre, leading to one of the Accessible seating areas as it was not wide enough to accommodate most manual wheelchairs! Thankfully this has been corrected and the doorway widened to accommodate wheelchairs, manual and motorised, and also scooters. Access Info for Queen's: For wheelchair and scooter users, the entrance to the auditorium is through the fourth side door on Wardour Street – please ask a member of staff to open this for you. Level transfers are available in row D Dress Circle (may not be suitable for very low seated wheelchairs). There are places in Loge 1 and 2 that have level access. These will be suitable for wheelchairs which are maximum 1m in length and 64cm wide. Limited Mobility: 18 steps from the foyer up to the rear Dress Circle. 21 steps from the foyer down to the Stalls. 39 steps from the foyer to up the Upper Circle (this area is quite steep). Assistance dogs are allowed inside the auditorium, however Theatre Management can look after them if required. There is an Infra-red system with 12 headsets – Free hire upon production of ID. Please collect from foyer kiosk. You will be asked to sign a receipt. A £5.00 returnable deposit is required for the hire of the headsets. Please notify theatre at time of booking if you require this service. For signed, captioned and audio-described performances, patrons are requested to call: 0844 482 5166 or email access@delfontmackintosh.co.uk There is an adapted toilet with Radar lock in the foyer, accessed via a ramped corridor. Currently no bars in the theatre are accessible to wheelchair users but drinks can be brought into the auditorium. Tickets: To book discounted Access tickets (companion discount also) to see Les Miserables, call Access number and select 'Queen's Theatre' from the options on 0844 482 5137. Soprano, Victoria Farley, is a former Les Miserables cast member and part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations at the O2 in 2010. She is currently working on recording tracks in a classical/jazz crossover style, with the hope of recording an album in the near future. Victoria kindly answered some questions on Access recently and also some on her first recorded track, proving a big success on YouTube. Have a read what she has to say and check out her YouTube channel and follow on Twitter. AL: Many theatres/arts venues in London still have little or no disabled access. How aware are you of these issues? And how aware do you think others in the business are? VF: In all honesty, I was not at all aware of how many theatre/arts venues have restricted and even no disabled access, and I think I would be correct in saying that the vast majority of others in the industry are also unaware of this. AL: As a singer, how important is it to you that everyone who wants to see you perform can access the venue to do so? VF: As a performer, I feel a personal sense of responsibility to the audience at all times. To me it is of the utmost importance that every audience member has the most enjoyable time possible when visiting the theatre; in all aspects. I am also always immensely proud of the show I am in, and proud of everyone involved and it is wonderful to receive support from the audience. The fact is: No Audience, No Show. Without the support of the public, the theatre world would and could not exist. Therefore I feel ashamed that some theatres are obliged to turn away an audience member should they have a disability that cannot be accommodated. I understand there are difficulties with listed building restrictions on some of the older theatres, but in a time where health & safety, equal rights, human rights, political correctness and disability work awareness/equality are practiced in all sectors, I feel a sense of embarrassment that our sector of work is lagging so far behind. AL: Many theatres and theatre groups currently don't promote and publicise their Access details and rates particularly well. Could this be because they don't want to sell discounted Access tickets or do you think other reasons are involved? VF: I don’t think the discounted rates are an issue to theatres. With so much competition among the theatres, discounts and offers are promoted on a daily basis. Perhaps they are unaware of the issues faced in this matter, and that because so many venues do not offer Access, there will be certain audience members who are looking out for these tickets. It is something that must be bought to the attention of each venue, and the ones offering Access should be proud to stand up promote this, and encourage other theatres to follow suit. AL: Some of the larger arts venues (Barbican, ROH, RAH, RFH, Coliseum) have their own Access schemes with free membership, Access rates and dedicated Access teams. Do you think such schemes could work in West End and off West End theatres? VF: Absolutely. If you are welcomed into a place so warmly, you will be loyal to that place. As I mentioned before, the competition between each theatre is high so regular visitors and loyal members do wonders for those venues. All theatres should look into offering Access membership and rates as they will then recommend this venue to others. It would be especially worthwhile in off West End theatres as the shows change so regularly and it is always nice to welcome back familiar faces. AL: Any message to theatres owners about the future of Access for All? VF: Theatre owners should recognise the importance of Access for All. However large or small the venue is, they should be committed to offering whatever level of Access they can. It is unacceptable in this era to be turning away audience members because they cannot accommodate disabled members and theatres should be proud to stand up and say that they have made the difference. AL: You've performed in shows from Les Mis (incl the 25th Anniversary concerts) to Edwin Drood...what's made you choose to record songs, and possibly an album, at this time? VF: Having trained classically as a soprano, performing as a solo artist is something I am very used to, and before I branched into Musical Theatre, most of my performing experience were solo recitals/concerts. The idea of recording a new style of music was something I started working on 2 years ago, however I was fortunate enough to work solidly in theatre for those 2 years, so I put the recording on temporary hold. As soon as I finished pantomime this year, I took the bull by the horns and set to work whilst I had no other commitments. AL: Why a classical/jazz crossover? Where did the idea come from? VF: Just after I finished the Les Mis tour, I worked abroad for 6 months. I was singing lots of different genres of music, one of these being jazz. Jazz was a style I hadn’t worked on before and I loved it! When I started working on the idea of releasing a track, I couldn’t decide between jazz, and my first love: classical. Both are so very different, and would be marketed towards completely different listeners. And then it hit me: why not try a mixture of the two! AL: It's the first song you've recorded. What was the process like? VF: The process was quite long and tricky. Classical and jazz are completely different genres. Musically they are worlds apart, and they styles in which they are written differ in almost every way. Trying to merge the two in a way that was still sympathetic to the original aria wasn’t an easy one to work out and I did go through a stage of thinking “There is a reason why this hasn’t yet been tackled – it doesn’t work!” I was persistent however, and eventually we worked out a formula. AL: Who and what are your musical influences? VF: I have certainly been inspired by singers such as Il Divo, who have crossed classical with pop in order to make it more accessible to people who wouldn’t usually enjoy classical music, whilst still pleasing those that do listen to it. There have been many like Il Divo who are also achieving this. I have always been inspired by the greatest classical singers such as Andrea Bocelli, Pavarotti and Cecilia Bartoli, who literally raise the roof with their singing ability! AL: If an album is to be made (fingers crossed), what songs and ideas have you got for it? VF: I am currently working on a number of songs for a potential album. I also hope to be performing my own gigs soon. I am mainly sticking to the most celebrated and recognisable arias, although I will be throwing in some surprises! I shouldn’t be naming any numbers yet, as with the complications of creating new arrangements I could end up scrapping some of them, but ‘Nella Fantasia’ and ‘Canto Della Terra’ will definitely be amongst the mix. Thank you once again Victoria for answering those questions and supporting Access London and Access for All. Please check out Victoria's YouTube channel and her newest classical/jazz recording... Victoria Farley, O Mio Babbino Caro Video . You can keep up to date with Victoria's latest news and projects via her website www.victoriafarley.com . And by following her on Twitter @victoria_farley .

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