ethics, life, theatre

The problem with access

I don’t post about this often but it’s been on my mind recently and it’s weighing me down.

I love the theatre and I love ballet, have done since I was tiny (expelled from ballet lessons aged 7 for wanting to do ‘real dancing’ not endless good toes, bad toes, expelled from drama class at 13 for being “too dramatic” – I kid you not).

But since meeting the Mr a serious question has arisen – why are so many arts spaces hostile to the disabled?

My Mr broke his back aged 21 falling from a window at a party, he had extensive spinal surgery and rehab, he now uses a wheelchair to get around as he is paralysed from the waist down (yes he can still have sex before you ask, no I won’t explain in detail).

He wasn’t a massive theatre goer before we got together 6 years ago, he’d been to a few musicals and some live comedy. I took him to his first festival, first Shakespeare play and first ballet.

Some arts venues are brilliant, super accommodating and helpful (the Lyric Hammersmith, whatever the Hammersmith Apollo is now called, the O2, and a few West End theatres can’t do enough), others are a bit of a pain (Barbican, with its annoying registration process for example) and others are just downright obstructive.

We went to Sadler’s Wells a few years ago to see Matthew Bourne’s Gothic Sleeping Beauty, he’s my favourite choreographer, and I was delighted. The Mr booked the tickets and while they were a bit useless about it, we did get sorted in the end.

Christmas 2014 – Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands is at Sadler’s Wells. I want to go, the Mr says he’ll book, a Christmas present.

We don’t go, because SW have decided people lie about needing a wheelchair space and they want proof – a very particular proof, that even Government agencies don’t ask for, before they’ll make any booking.

We complain, it’s a really obnoxious policy and the access manager isn’t much better. We can’t find the document they want, and no other, even a note from his GP will do.

Who lies about needing a wheelchair space? They’ll look incredibly stupid when they turn up and have to stand, as chairs are removed to make room. You just refuse them then or ask them to pay the full value, or whatever.

It’s a policy I’ve never come across before or since. But it basically says “ballet is not for you” to anyone ringing up.

Ballet gets a lot of stick for being elitist, something many companies and venues are trying to change so to have the dance venue in London behave like this is extraordinary.

This Christmas just gone Sleeping Beauty was back, we didn’t even discuss going, we saw Bill Bailey in the West End instead (he was brilliant and the theatre’s assistance excellence) but I did ring Sadler’s Wells and they still have this mad policy in place. Way to tell disabled dance fans you don’t want them cluttering up your audience.

ramblingmads

reviews, theatre

Easily Offended?

Took my boyfriend to the theatre tonight for his birthday. We went to see The Book of Mormon.

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We saw Avenue Q a few years ago, and this is by the same team (who also wrote South Park – which I can’t stand).

BoM is very, very funny but not for anyone who doesn’t like swearing, or sexual references. Basically, if you’re easily offended, skip this and see something else (Les Mis, Cats, Phantom, all good).

The story is that of two Mormon missionaries from Utah who are dispatched to northern Uganda for their two year mission – to convert and baptize the natives.

A lot of the jokes revolve around the fish out of water scenario these 19 year olds find themselves in. However, others are very crude and based on American stereotypes of Africans. There are jokes about Aids, poverty, FGM (I didn’t find these funny), warlords, rape (again, not so funny) and dysentery.

Fans of South Park will know this crudity, and find it amusing, and while I laughed at some of the jokes, others really grated. South Park has never been something I would choose to watch, I really don’t think it’s funny or clever.

I think it depends on your comedic taste and level of sensitivity to near-knuckle humour, as to whether this show would be for you.

The man sat in front of me laughed so hard at times, I was a bit concerned as he was bright red.

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ramblingmads

adventures, life, music, reviews, theatre

Amanda Palmer at Union Chapel

I love music, I believe the right song at the right time can change your entire perspective. As someone with partial hearing loss (it’s genetic and will get worse) I try to make the most of the music I can still hear.

Tonight I went to Union Chapel in Islington, a beautiful church that also hosts concerts, to see Amanda Palmer perform on her last tour before she becomes someone’s mother (she’s 6 months pregnant).

I saw Amanda there about 4 or 5 years ago and that was amazing, tonight was even better. The acoustics and ambience of the building add a certain something to the proceedings.

Amanda’s shows don’t feel like a gig, more like An Evening With , as she introduces acts and brings her friend on stage to sing with her.

Kicking off proceedings is the joyful noise of London band Perhaps Contraption – a combination of a brass band with a punk aesthetic. They are tremendous fun.

Then comedian Andrew O’Neill comes on and does some very funny one liners, reads out some hilarious rejection letters and introduces Amanda.

She stands in the pulpit and sings ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ unaccompanied, it is beautiful.

Then she descends to the piano to kick things off with ‘Astronaut’ and ‘Ampersand’ from her ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer?’ album.

She talks about the previous night’s show – webcast live to Patreon subscribers, soon to be free to stream to everyone. She tells us tonight will be better as she can relax more. She takes requests from the audience, I ask for ‘I Google You’, but sadly there isn’t enough time to do them all. She performs some of them with her ukelele.

She reads a random extract from her book ‘The Art of Asking’, selected by an audience member, she talks about writing and her infamous Kickstarter.

Her special guest is drag performer and cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat, who is magnificent, funny, clever, joyous.

Then she brings her friend Whitney on and they do a Garfunkel and Oates song about how smug pregnant women are and a few Ask Amanda questions.

Then they do a Dresden Dolls classic – Delilah – I think I last heard her do this with Georgia from Bitter Ruin, it’s a great song.

There’s time for a Ben Folds cover and a riotous Leeds United featuring Perhaps Contraption, before the standing ovation.

The encore is a Kimya Dawson song and Ukelele Anthem.

Normally she stays and signs anything you like, but she’s pregnant, her feet are swollen and she hasn’t been off stage to pee once.

So, as this is technically a book tour, there’s a signing tomorrow evening in Waterstones.

I think it’s the relationship she has with her fans, old and new, that makes her shows feel more intimate, she’s joking and waving, knowing we’ll sing along, that we’re in on it, whatever it is.

I leave buzzing, music always seems to bring me alive a little more.

We walk to Kings Cross, down Pentonville Road, past the park where clown Joseph Grimaldi’s grave is sited, the evening faded and the wind picking up, talking about the show, about ideas it’s given us – things we’re mulling over.

The way you should be, electric from the crowd, from the rhythm. Not bad for a Tuesday.

ramblingmads

adventures, life, reviews, theatre

Fat Sam’s Grand Slam…

One of my greatest loves in life is the theatre, I wanted to be an actress but have crippling stage fright so I have to settle for a seat in the audience.

Last night we went to the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith to see their fabulous production of Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone.

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Previously thought to be un-stageable, the Lyric’s talented director Sean Hughes and his cast of future megastars proved that completely wrong.

As in the film that introduced Jodie Foster to the world, all the roles are played by child actors, and let me tell you, I highly expect these insanely talented kids to go far.

From their breathtaking dance routines, to the (mostly) flawless American accents, to the beautiful singing voices (the girl playing Blousey Brown stood out in particular) and the brilliant comic asides from Fat Sam himself, this was one hell of a show and they deserved every second of the standing ovation.

I wasn’t applauding because ‘Aww look at how cute they are’, I was applauding incredible talent, which comes in all shapes and sizes(and ages).

Yes, most of them attend drama classes or stage school (as I did for a bit) but so do dozens of other young performers, and sadly some of them will never stand on a professional stage.

So hats off to the cast of Bugsy, and if you’re in or near London, go, it’s a great theatre, a fantastic show, and the tickets are £15. What more could you want?

ramblingmads