Getting to know Blossom! – The Guide Dog Tag

Hi All,

Today, I thought I’d do another Visually Impaired related blogging tag. This time it’s ‘The Guide Dog Tag’. So without further ado let’s do this!

1. What is your guide dogs name?

Her name is Blossom!

2. What is the breed of your guide dog?

Blossom is half Labrador and half Labrador Retriever

3. How old is your guide dog?

At the time of writing this, Blossom is 2 years old, but will be 3 on 12th June!

4. Where was your guide dog trained?

Blossom was trained at The Guide Dogs Training School in Redbridge but was then taken to Hertfordshire to The Welwyn Garden City Mobility Team. If you want to see a clip of Blossom at her time here you can watch the video below! 

 

5. When did you qualify with your guide dog?

I qualified with Blossom on the 15th September 2017

6. Is he or she your first guide dog?

Yes, Blossom is my first Guide Dog!

7. Summarise your guide dogs personality in five words?

Fun, laidback, cheeky, playful, wonderful.

8. What is the best thing about your guide dog?

I know a lot of Guide Dog Owners probably say this, but the ability to go out anywhere I want and at spare of the moment!

9. What is the funniest thing your guide dog has ever done?

For, the funniest thing Blossom has ever done is during our early days of training, I was in the bathroom getting ready for the day ahead and in the bathroom, there was this see-through shelf that I didn’t see. So, as a result, I whacked my head on it. Afterwards, I looked at Blossom and she just looked at me, sighed, shook her head and went back to her bed sighing again!

10. Has your guide dog ever gotten you into any embarrassing situations?

Oh yes, she sure has! I can think of one incident in particular! At my church, sometimes I am an altar server, at one Sunday, we were getting ready to process back down the aisle. As I came closer to the aisle I noticed, Blossom was laying right in the middle of it! So as a result of this; all the servers, choir, and vicars had to walk around her and continued to walk down the aisle!

11. What is your guide dog like on harness?

On harness, Blossom is excellent! Sure, there are days where she struggles a little and doesn’t want to work as hard, but the way I look at it, is at the end of the day they are dogs and we do ask a lot of them!

12. What are some of your guide dogs quirks?

One of Blossom’s quirks, really makes me laugh sometimes. There is this one thing she sometimes does that makes everyone laugh. We can be heading somewhere or heading home from somewhere, and at some point, we will come across a bus. Blossom will sometimes notice the bus stop, stop at it, and look at me as if to say: “Dad, can’t we just go home on the bus?” People have said she is so like me it’s unbelievable! Also she knows that a night I suffer from ‘Night Blindness’ so she knows when the when to push the buttons a bit, and see what she can get away with! 🙂

13. Where does your guide dog seem to work the best?

Blossom works really well at night. Part of my condition is that I suffer from ‘Night Blindness’ and over the time we have been together, she has worked this out. So at night, I couldn’t fault her in the slightest. She also loves to work in busy and noisy areas like London, there is always a spring in her step whenever we go there!

14. What is your guide dogs favorite thing to do when off harness?

I only have one word to describe this…sleep! If we’re not out and about, she’s sleep. She’s even fallen asleep on buses and I’ve had to wake her up to get off the bus!

15. Has your guide dog ever done anything that goes beyond the call of duty?

I don’t think I can really answer that just yet, as we have not been together that long, but who knows in the near future I think she just might!

So that’s it! I hope you have enjoyed reading this, enjoyed getting to know to Blossom a little more! There will be plenty of photos in the up and coming reviews and many more adventures we have together! Any other Guide Dog Owners, who want to give this tag a go feel free to, I got the questions and inspiring from a fellow blogger & youtuber ‘Fashoneyesta‘ who’s video I will link here! If you want to see more of Me and Blossom, then please follow us on Twitter, that way you get to see all the update information, photos, and videos, plus all else that we get up to!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic

 

Apps For The Visually Impaired

Hi Everyone,

I have been blogging about my experiences going to the theatre for visually impaired people for a few of years now, and it occurred to me recently that even though yes, I tell you guys about my theatre goings-on from a visually impaired perspective, I don’t really do any visually impaired related content. I did writing about my Guide Dog Experience recently (if you haven’t read that yet, I suggest you do so). But this time I thought I would write and suggest some smartphone apps that I use. Now you may have already heard of some of these already and that’s okay, but there maybe some on this list that you might not have heard of. 

This list is in no particular order, so here it goes:

1. Netflix

Some of you might be sitting there reading this and thinking ‘why on earth have you chosen Netflix?’ Well, along with Netflix being the leading company in online streaming services, it has I believe the largest and best category of films and tv show that have Audio Description! The UK version of Netflix already has big collections of films and tv shows, but what makes Netflix stand out from all the rest is that it has its own category for Audio Description which covers tv or films. Instead of trying to search for films or tv shows and clicking on each one to see if it has AD all you have to do is just click or tap on the category which says ‘Audio Description’ and there you go! Netflix is a monthly subscription service, with their basic package being £5.99 and going far as £9.99 for their ultra package. They do offer a 30-day free trial so give it a shot!

2. TimeBuzz

Okay, now technically this is not a smartphone app, but an Apple Watch app, but hear me out. Have you ever been in a situation where you want to know what the time is, but you are afraid if you check it will look like your bored, or it will distract the people around you? Well, this solves both those problems. TimeBuzz instead of telling you the time verbally, it gives you the time by giving you physical indications by tapping you on the wrist. For example, if the time was 10:15am once you press the button, it will tap you ten times on the wrist, pause, then tap you fifteen times on the wrist, and no is the wiser!

3. Big Spender

This app is for all my fellow Guide Dog Owners out there! Have you ever been traveling in a city or place you are unfamiliar, and your dog needs to ‘spend’ and go for the toilet, and if like Blossom they only want to go on grass? Well, then this app is for you! It uses your current location and searches for the nearest public piece of grass. You do have to use a bit of common sense, as it will show you places at you just can’t get to like grass on roundabouts or it might say there is a patch of public grass, but you get there and it isn’t anymore, but on the whole, it has got me out of a jam and it does come in handy!

4. StoCard 

This has been a recent find, thanks to another visually impaired blogger/YouTuber ‘Fashioneyesa‘. This has been a lifesaver! When I’m out shopping I’m forever having a blank at to where I have put a certain loyalty card for a certain shop, with this app I don’t have to worry about that anymore. What this app does is instead of struggling to find a certain card in your wallet or purse. All you have to do is store your card into the app before you go shopping. Then when the staff asks if you have a loyalty card, you can open this app and select it, at which point it will come up with that card’s barcode or QR code for the shop assistant to scan! It will add the points automatically to your account, it works with all major UK shops and food chains so start scanning!

5. Tube Map

This app has been brilliant! Even though I’m Visually Impaired, I am lucky that I have some remaining useful vision. But sadly when I go to London and use the underground, I can’t see the large maps on the station walls or on the trains themselves. So this app takes care of all of that. It downloads the full London tube map to your phone, and you can zoom in or out as much as you need. Although the best thing about it in my opinion, is that when you search a route, it tells you how many stops it is before you get to your destination, and which ‘bound’ to use for example ‘West Bound’ or ‘North Bound’ which is for me the biggest difficulty.  

I hope that this list of apps have become useful, and has given you some new apps to try. All links to these apps are in the app titles, so just click on them and it will take you to the App Store. If you have any other suggestions as to what other Visually Impaired topics you would like me to talk about and go into, then please leave them in the comments below, or get in touch or either Facebook or Twitter!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

Shows an iPhone next to a Macbook showing a 'Home Screen' full of Apps'

Europe After The Rain!

Hi Everyone,

Coming at you with another review! This is ‘Europe After The Rain’ by Oliver Bennett. It talks about politics and The EU exit vote back in 2016. The story includes four main characters Will, Max, Marta, and Yana. 

The story covers these four characters as Will owns at large house, and one day comes across two refugees who have come into England. As they have no place to stay, he offers for them to come and stay with him. Will has strong views on the now then current British Government and what he feels they should do. Marta and Yana, however, have no interest in the vote, so throughout the first have of the show, Will tries to explain to them, but with little results. The second half of the show then shows an extreme version of what could happen after the vote to leave the Europian Union. 

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Photo Description: Simon Haines (Max) & Natasha Kafka (Marta) looking together at a tablet.

I feel that writer here is not trying to tell the audience his views on what he thinks of the whole subject. But to show a version of what could happen. I personally don’t take much interest in the subject, as I personally struggle to understand it all. But for those who do, I think this show is a show where I think you’re doing to love it or not. The show was performed in the theatre’s studio and not the main Auditorium, so there was very little space, so this was one of those times where I was glad I’m quite a small person! As it was such a small space to work it, there was a lot of realistic features, for example, the use of candles and realistic cigarettes. 

I thought the play was acted very well by all members of the cast. There was a fair amount of humor which was nice from the character Max. There was also a fair amount of strong language in this show too, I thought maybe too much but again added to the realism. You got a real sense that the household was struggling financially, due to the use of some characters using beach chairs and some using plastic and again same with the tableware. 

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Photo Description: Simon Haines (Max) dancing around, hold a bunch of red flowers laughing.

The whole show was also performed on sand, which I thought was interesting. Along with robes hanging down from the top of the studio, I can only assume that was to simulate rain, or maybe walls as it wasn’t really made clear. But was an interesting visual. If you’re looking for something different to go see, this Definitely ticks that box!

People With A Visually Impairment: Your have no problem watching this show at all, I would suggest you get a ticket within the B or C rows of seats to get the best view possible!

People With No Vision; Again you will have no problem here! Most of the story is Dialogue with very little visuals. every now and again a character will light a cigarette or light a candle but it has very little if at all to the story. The use of sound is also very good in this show, so you shouldn’t really have a problem. There is an Audio Description & Touch Tour available though if you want to have descriptions. 

‘Europe After The Rain’ is running that The Mercury Theatre in Colchester from 25th May – 9th June! If you wish to go and purchase tickets, then you can find the link by clicking here!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic

 

‘Pieces Of String’ By Gus Gowland

Hi Everyone,

Recently I went to go and see ‘Pieces of String’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester!

‘Pieces of String’ tells the story of a man, who is called up to the British Army in World War II leaving behind his wife and family home. Whilst n the trenches he meets a fellow soldier, and they build a relationship together. The story then moves on to present day, where on the day of the man’s funeral his family has the terrible task of sorting out his possessions and home.

It’s a story which is fun, but at the heart of it has a really heartbreaking story. The story at its core discusses the subject of Gay relationships both in the past and modern day. Both the views in 1940’s Britain and today. This is a subject matter, which I have never seen talk in a musical, as I believe that most Play Writers are concerned about what the subject will have on the audience.

Pieces of String - Mercury Theatre - 20th April 2018

Description: Ella Dunlop (Gemma) & Harry (Gary Wood) sitting on boxes reading a letter and looking at old photos

Photo By Mercury Theatre & Robert Workman

What I think the writer Gus Gowland as come up with here is extraordinary and excellent! More writers of both stage and screen should not be afraid of what the audience might think and just write the play as they believe it to be. This show should be used as an example to show people you can write using any subject matter and it can work. ‘Piece’s of String’ is a musical which is excellent and I strongly believe should have a place in London’s West End! This is by far one of the best shows I have ever seen, and needs to be taken further, not just to stay in local but way beyond.

I’m not sure I can put into words really how much I loved this show, I know it’s early in the year and I have other shows to see this year, but I can see this being the best show I’ve seen this year by a mile! Absolutely wonderful!   

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Description: Me & Gus Gowland after the show, smiling at the camera!

People With A Visual Impairment: You will have no problem seeing this show at all. There is one use of flashing lights but it is over in a flash literally. I feel you can sit six rows back be fine.

People With A No Vision: I think Audio Description is a good choice here, but saying that if you can’t get the Audio Description I think your be fine. There’s enough dialogue to understand the story, if necessary take a friend with you to help describe sections.

Regardless of what I put in the ratings here, please everyone go and see this show now because when it goes to the West End, you might struggle to get tickets! You can find links to The Mercury Theatre website by clicking HERE!

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic

 

Putting My Left Paw Forward – My Guide Dog Experience

So this blog post I thought I’d write because I thought it might be good for you guys to see what the process is like in general and also see what my personal experience. This post will be about my Guide Dog Experience.

So back in 2015, I started studying at a college for the blind up into Hereford. We had a good mixture of visually impaired and blind students. As well as cane and Guide Dog users. Also one of my friends at the time was also a Guide Dog user. It was because of this time at college and being around Guide Dogs and their owners that I decided to go ahead and applied for my own Guide Dog, as well as the struggles I had getting around from day to day.

So one day in between lessons, I decided to go to the Guide Dog website and search for my local mobility team back at home. Once I found out their information I decided to email them to find out a bit more about the process and what was involved. Within a couple of days, I got an email back from someone at Guide Dogs to say that they would phone me to set up a home visit and send a member of staff to come and see me. Now, I must mention that I had applied for a Guide Dog some years before this, but I had been turned down at the time because I was too young. The first meeting was about me and my eye condition and all the boring paper that had to be done, as well as all the information I needed to know.

A few months went by, as at the time I was away studying a college so, my application had to be referred to the local mobility team up near my college. I then got a phone call from that team asking if they could come and see me and conduct a mobility assessment. This involves me walking around as I normally would with my cane, while the Guide Dog staff behind me look at the little things, like my walking speed and how I get around. Whilst doing this, they asked me questions like my distance in terms of my sight and how far I can see before things started to get blurry.

Once we got back to the college we sat down and discussed how we all thought it went. It turned out it went really well and that they were going to recommend I moved on the Guide Dog Mobility Assessment. After the Mobility Assessment, I got six to eight months went passed before I finally got a phone call from Guide Dogs asking to meet me for a Guide Dog Assessment around the college. About a week later, the day finally arrived and I must say I was really nervous, as I really wanted this to go well. We first sat down and discussed me and what type of dog I was personally looking for, and what Guide Dogs thought I needed. Once we had this discussion, we then did a harness walk. This is a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, brings along a harness, but sadly no dog. They hold on to the end of the harness and mutate what a Guide Dog would be doing as well as teaching me the basic commands to work the dog.

We walked around the college and practiced walking up and down stairs, practicing giving positive and negative reactions to a dogs behavior. This went so well and we were both really, really happy with how that went. Therefore I went on the waiting list for a Guide Dog. During this time, I had a number of visits from Guide Dogs including looking at where I was currently living and looking at the size of the garden and where would the dog ‘spend’. I had to do this another time, because whilst on the waiting list I moved house, so Guide Dogs had to come a assess my house again, along with looking and assessing my pet dogs.

As I had moved house, I needed new routes, to get out and about as well as routes for working my future Guide Dog. I had a number of mobility lessons before I went back on the waiting list for a Guide Dog. So fast forwarding to June 2017, at this point in my life, I had moved out of the family home, and living on my own, as well as visiting my girlfriend once a month up in Birmingham which I love to do, as still love to do! During this time, I had phoned Guide Dogs to give them an update and tell them that I had moved out and was living on my own. About a week or so later, I got the phone call I had been dreaming and waiting for almost three years. I got the phone call to say that Guide Dogs, had possibly found me a Guide Dog.

About a week later on a Thursday afternoon. A Guide Dog Mobility Instructor came round with a two-year-old, yellow Labrador Retriever cross. He brought her up to my flat, were my mum and I were waiting. We both said hello to the dog, and started to answer a few questions about where I was living, how the other residents would feel about having a dog around the place, along with my current routes and places a still go. We then went on another harness walk to practice the basic commands again, as it had been some time since I had done them before on the Guide Dog Assessment. Then we walked back to get the dog and do the same walk with the dog in harness. Once, we both started walking we didn’t stop. We carried on and on until we got to the end of the road, which was much more further then me and the trainer had done a few minutes before. After we turned around, we lead walk the dog back, and the trainer guided me back home. On the way home, he started telling me some more things about the dog and a little bit about her personality and characteristics.

Once home, went through how the two walks went. The trainer said that he thought it went really well and that me and Blossom when he then said what she was called work so well together, that he was going to recommend that we got matched as a partnership. After this, I then had to say goodbye to Blossom, which I was a little sad at because even though the chance was slim and wasn’t very likely as the meeting went so well. There was a little of me was sad to see her go, just in case I never got to see her again.

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Photo: Me & Blossom looking at camera on the day we met for the first time!

About a week or so later, whilst out having lunch with my girlfriend. I got a phone call from Blossom’s trainer, to say that I had been officially matched with her. I was over the moon! He then said, that some weekend in the near future I would I like to have Blossom for the weekend? Of course, I said yes. So we arranged a date for Blossom to come and stay with me for a couple of weekends time. Those two weekends went by very slowly, but eventually, the big weekend arrived. Once they had arrived, Blossom’s trainer brought her in to meet all the other residents in the building, and have a talk about, what is expected of them and what a Guide Dog does. Once that was all done, he then brought her back to my flat, and we went through the basics on how to look after Blossom, how to feed her and take out to ‘spend’. Once he taught me all that, he went to go and get Blossom’s bed, then quickly send goodbye and left. For the first few hours Blossom didn’t want to come near me, which I can understand. But looking at her now, you wouldn’t believe it. During the weekend, we weren’t allowed to go out anywhere, so we just stayed indoors and spent time together, watching telly, playing with Blossom’s starfish which she had since she was a puppy and still has to this day, and we watched telly together. When the Monday arrived and it was time for Blossom to leave, I got a little upset to see her go, but this time I knew for a fact I would be seeing her again.

A few months went by, then one day, I got a letter from Guide Dogs to say I had been invited to a ‘Client Day’ at their offices. On the day, a nice volunteer driver from Guide Dogs came to pick me up and take me to the office. Once we got their a member of staff took me into the building and introduced me to the three other people that were going to be in my class when I came to start my training the following Monday. Three of us, including me were on our first dog, while one other was on his second dog. The day consisted of a few presentations about dogs in general and then moved onto more specific Guide Dog related topics. After that, we then went down in twos to go and see our dogs and do some basic obedience with them. As I walked up to Blossom’s pen, she looked up at me, as if to say “I know who you are…” then once she was allowed to come and say hello she started wagging her tail as if to say “I remember who you are!” We then went outside into the car park to do some obedience which went really well. We worked on basic things, like walking to heel, following the lead and turning whilst on the lead.

After this, we then went back to Blossom’s pen, and had quick fuss of her, before we had to go back upstairs for lunch. After lunch, we all got to go on a walk with our dogs. We drove to an housing estate and each got to do a route that all the dogs knew well. After everyone had a go, we went back to the office and went through the finer point of training before we started for real the following Monday.

The weekend before training was the longest weekend ever! As I was so excited, I made sure I packed everything I needed, as well as the things Guide Dogs said I needed. When the Monday arrived, another lovely volunteer driver from Guide Dogs came to take me to the hotel where we were going to be staying for the next two weeks. Once everyone had arrived, as we had already met a few days before it was more relaxed a chatty. Then our trainer went through what the two weeks consisted of and what different things we were going to do each day. Then we were each given a bag of goodies! Which had in it all the essentials which included a brand new white harness, a new lead and lead flash, a dog whistle and grooming supplies!

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Photo: A clean white brand new harness and bag of dog supplies on a bed.

The next two weeks were very hard work, but at the same time very, very enjoyable! We were each taught how to put on and take off the harness, in my case i had to learn to look up and straight ahead and not look down, as for years I had got into the habit of looking down at my feet so I wouldn’t trip over them. We also learnt how to feed, groom, and ‘spend’ our dogs. As the days went on, the walks we did got a little more challenging each day, including things like going into shops, full pavement obstacles and even a walk at night. Even though I had an amazing time away training, and I’d definitely do it all again, the time came when we had to go home and start our home training. Home training lasted for three weeks, where I got to do all the local routes that I was familiar with, as well as public transport such as trains and buses. Once we had covered all my local routes and places of interested. I had one final walk, we went into town and done some shopping which I needed to do, and then we walked to catch the bus home. Whilst waiting for the bus, my trainer said that that was my final walk, and would I be happy if she qualified me and Blossom as a fully legal partnership? Of course, I said yes! So once we got home, she got out all the paper and started reading through the contract. Once she read through it, I said I was more than happy with it, and I signed all the paperwork and handed over my fifty pence!

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Photo: Me & Blossom in town, standing in front of aOnly Fools & Horses’ van!

After going through all this, I must say, applying for and getting Blossom, is honestly one of the best things I have ever done! She has given me so much confidence in going out, and people have said that it shows. Now, instead of thinking ‘I can’t go and do this, because I’d need someone to come with me’ now its a case of ‘Let’s go and do this event’ or ‘where have we not gone together’. I know it’s a common thing for a Guide Dog owner to say, but Blossom has truly been a life changer and now I honestly can’t see myself without her. She’s helped me not with just my ability to get out and round, but also with my self-confidence and sense of importance. She relies on me, just as much as I rely on her, and not a day goes by when I don’t thank her for what she does!

So here comes my advertising bit, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association solely run on public donations and get no government funding, it costs over £50,000 for life and aftercare for one dog and their owner. You can also Sponsor a Guide Dog Puppy, or maybe give up some time and volunteer. Whatever you can do I know Guide Dogs would very much appreciate it. If you would be interest, in looking into donating or volunteer for Guide Dogs you can do so, by going to www.guidedogs.org.uk!

If you have made it to the end, then thank for reading all of this, I know this post was a lot longer then what I normally do, but I wanted to write about this for three reasons. One, was to tell you guys about my experience, two if there is anyone out there who is looking to applying for or is think about applying for a Guide Dog, and three I wanted to document mine and Blossom’s experience, so we can look back at our first eight or so months together! She is right fast asleep on her bed as I am writing this!

Anyway, thank you so much for reading this, and I look forward to see you in my next review coming very soon!

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Photo: Me & Blossom (in harness) sitting in the gardens of the hotel!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic

 

‘A Classic Ghost Story’ – Turn Of The Screw

Hi everyone! Here’s to 2018!

For the first show of 2018, I went to go and see ‘Turn of The Screw’ by Henry James’ adapted for the stage by Tim Luscome. This show has been advertised as ‘The Classic Ghost Story’ and that is definitely the case. This is very much a play of despair, unconditional love, and fear!

‘Turn of The Screw’ tells the story of a fifty-year-old governess who is interviewed to take charge of her mistress’s children, for her then to find out she is actually one of two children she used to look after thirty years ago. The play tells the story if the governess’s time at Bly House and it’s haunted past. I enjoyed the show overall, but due to the time period in which the play is set, at times I personally struggled to understand a certain scene, due to the type of language used. This is anything, but a good thing, as it helps set the scene of the period.

A scene from Turn of the Screw by Henry James (adapted by Tim Luscombe) at the Mercury Theatre Colchester. Directed by Daniel Buckroyd. Designed by Sara Parks. Lit by Matt Leventhall.

Description: The Governess & Mrs. Grose looking far into the distance, in the children’s nursery

Throughout the show, there were transitions for the governess (played by Carli Norris) and Mrs. Conray between a past younger version of themselves and the present, and this was brilliantly done. Often when I go and see shows of the same style and layout, this can come across very confusing to the audience. However, in this case, there was no confusion and it was expertly done.

At first, I thought this is being a somewhat quiet show that someone with no vision would struggle understanding the story and what exactly was going on. But actually, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure there were some parts of the story that I struggled to understand, however, is the show progressed I started to get used to the style and started to understand the flow. There were some key moments, that as an audience member I did not see coming.

A scene from Turn of the Screw by Henry James (adapted by Tim Luscombe) at the Mercury Theatre Colchester. Directed by Daniel Buckroyd. Designed by Sara Parks. Lit by Matt Leventhall.

Description: The Governess sitting in a rocking chair facing forward, looking dazed.

Do not get me wrong, this is not a show for the faint-hearted and does have some loud sounds and flashing lights throughout, and the show has a very dark awareness about it. But this in no way should it take anything away from your show. All the cast were brilliant, and the story was excellently written and directed. I must say, this is not a show for everyone however if you enjoy a traditional vibe of theatre, then I can highly recommend this.

People With A Visual Impairment: I think with the show, not using a lot of lighting, the use of flashing lights and blackouts. I think you may struggle here, the use of Audio Description would be a good choice, along with a close seat to the stage. Please also if you are light sensitive, you maybe want to bare this in mind.

A scene from Turn of the Screw by Henry James (adapted by Tim Luscombe) at the Mercury Theatre Colchester. Directed by Daniel Buckroyd. Designed by Sara Parks. Lit by Matt Leventhall.

Description: A younger Mrs. Conray & her brother playing in the Nursery, she is wearing fairy wings, whilst her brother is wearing a horse head shaped hat.

People With No Vision: On a whole, I think you do fine here, again I think Audio Description is a good choice, however, if that’s not available then I think as long as you can understand some of the period language I think your do just fine. There some visual aids in the show which might not help in understanding the story, e.g. the transitions between the past and the present day, but I think if you go with a sighted friend then you should be okay to watch this without a worry.

‘Turn of The Screw’ is running at The Mercury Theatre from 23rd February until 10th March. But the show is also on a national tour throughout the UK. If you would to see if ‘Turn of The Screw’ is coming to your local theatre, then you can find out by clicking the link below:

Mercury Theatre Tickets Click Here. For all other UK Tour dates Click Here.

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

 

Photo Credits: Mercury Theatre & Robert Workmen

Review of 2017 & Looking Towards 2018!

Well, it’s come towards the end of 2017, and the start of 2018! Throughout the course of this year, I’ve seen some amazing shows! All of them have been brilliant, but I think if I’ve had to pick a couple. I would have to say ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘Monty Python’s – SpamAlot’!

But like I said every show this year has been so good! I’m not sure as yet when I will be reviewing again next year. But I’m hoping that next year will bring another lot of brilliant shows! I think it goes to show, that you don’t need to go to London’s West End to enjoy some great theatre!

I hope that by reading my reviews this year, that it has encouraged you to go and see more shows at your local theatre, and that you don’t always have to go to London’s West End to see some great theatre!

I’d like to thank The Mercury Theatre in Colchester for giving me a chance to review some of the great shows this year, and how they’ve made me feel so welcome and really looked after me and Blossom throughout this year, and I would forward to what comes along next year!

Finally, I’d like to wish every single one of you, a very Happy New Year and wish you all the best for 2018! 

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

The VI Critic
Photo Description: My logo of a cartoon Guide Dog with the words ‘The VI Critic wishes you… A Happy New Year’ in small and big blue letters!

Snow White & The Seven Dwafs

Hi Everyone!

I’ve been looking forward to writing this review all year! As it is December and the run-up to Christmas, then it can only mean one thing…it’s Pantomime Season! This year I went to see ‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, and this year like every year previous did not disappoint!

‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’ tells the story of a Princess, whose mother dies and her father remarries her evil stepmother wants the be ‘the fairest in the land’ and will stop at nothing to become so. It’s the classic fairytale of good and evil.

‘Snow White’ played by Megan Bancroft was very good in this role, and her singing voice was beautiful and I was very pleasantly surprised. Her singing was lovely to listen to. I went to look at her credits after the show and was surprised to see that she has not landed a major role in the West End. I honestly don’t know how she has not yet been picked up by one of the big shows!

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Photo By Robert Workman

Photo Description: Snow White & Robert sitting on a bench in front of bright green bushes

Like the previous two years, Anthony-Stuart-Hicks is back once again to play the role of ‘Nurse Nellie’ and as expected he did not disappoint! I was very happy to see him in the programme again this year! His humor and comedy left me and everyone in the audience in balls of laughter, making his own written jokes and playing with the audience in many ways! He was teamed up once again with Dale Supervillle, and these two working together is an absolute comedy dream! However, this year I was very disappointed to see that they did not have many scenes together, and were not on stage as much this year. The only criticism I have of the whole show was this. Please, please next year have these two have more time on stage and in much more scenes together!! After the show, Anthony said that he has already signed for next year, so please make this possible. 

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Photo By Robert Workman

Photo Description: Nurse Nellie & Muddles singing and dancing on stage in front of green bushes with red roses

I was a very good night overall and a MUST SEE this Christmas season! 

People With A Visual Impairment: The Mercury Theatre is quite small and the stage is very close to the audience so if you can manage to get a seat within the first six rows you will be more than fine. One thing to bare in mind is that throughout the show there, are a lot of bright and flashing lights.

People With No Vision: A performance with Audio Description and a touch tour is available (see website for further details) but if you can’t get tickets for that performance, then honestly you won’t have a problem. Sure there are the odd scene or two, which can be quite visual, but I don’t think it will affect your enjoyment or the show as a whole at all. 

‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’ is running at The Mercury Theatre from 25th November until 4th January 2018! Get your tickets now, as they are selling very quickly! For more information, you can CLICK HERE!

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Photo Description: Me & my Guide Dog Blossom with the comedy duo Anthony-Stuart-Hicks and Dale Superville

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic!

 

Conor McPherson’s ‘The Weir’

Hi again,

Last week I went to go and see ‘The Weir’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester! I know this review is a little late in coming as I went to go and see this show almost a week ago. But this show will not disappoint. 

The show I feel is a set of smaller stories, as each character tells a mixture of folklore, fiction, and ghost stories. This show has a  somewhat small cast consisting of Finbar, a man that came across to me as someone who is a member of the wealthy family of the village who had been living there for many years as he seemed to know a lot about the village. You then have Jack and Jim, who are regulars at the Irish pub,  Brendan the pub landlord, and Valerie a newbie to the village, and is on a local retreat to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  

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Photo Credit: Mercury Theatre & Marc Brenner

I’m going to come out and be honest, after coming home from the theatre I was thinking that this is something which I wouldn’t normally come and see myself. However, as I’ve had a few days to think about it, I’ve changed my mind! This is definitely something I would happily go and see again. Natalie Radmall-Quike’s acting as absolutely brilliant! Her character had a scene where she was really emotional as the scene was of her child. But I felt that I had a real connection to her character. Jack played by Sean Murray, I really enjoyed his acting and accent! He provided the humor through the whole show and I think the audience enjoyed his jokes and humor, not just me. Don’t get me wrong, there were some serious scenes too, but there was a clear definition, and you could honestly feel the pain and emotion all characters were feeling. Would I go and see this again? Yes!! You got a real sense of Irland, the country, the Irish people and the way they live. 

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Photo Credit: Mercury Theatre & Marc Brenner
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Photo Credit: Mercury Theatre & Marc Brenner

People With A Visual Impairment: You will have no problems, go and see this!

People With No Vision: I normally would say to you, get Audio Description as this will be a massive benefit. However, with this show, I honestly don’t think you need it here. The story, emotion and acting from all characters and actors will get you through this show without an issue.

‘The Weir’ is now on tour throughout the UK so if you’d like to see when they are coming to a theatre near you, then click here for the English Touring Theatre!

Trailer:

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic

J.M.Barries ‘Peter Pan’

Hi Guys,

Welcome back another review! This time I went to go and see J.M Barries ‘Peter Pan’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester! With it being Peter Pan, as expected there were a lot of children with their families which surprising added a nice atmosphere to the whole thing! I am assuming and guessing that most of you if not all of you have heard the story of Peter Pan a million times before, but for the odd person who is reading this who hasn’t let me give you a brief overview. Peter Pan (played by: Emilio Lannucci) is the story of a little boy, who decides that he never wants to grow up. He runs away from his family and goes to live on the island of ‘Neverland’. There he is met and surrounded by all sorts of creatures, from mermaids to Indians. He also meets the evil pirate Captin Hook (played by: Pete Ashmore), who wants to revenge on Peter, for cutting his hand off and feeding it to a crocodile. 

I am assuming and guessing that most of you if not all of you have heard the story of Peter Pan a million times before, but for the odd person who is reading this who hasn’t let me give you a brief overview. Peter Pan (played by: Emilio Lannucci) is the story of a little boy, who decides that he never wants to grow up. He runs away from his family and goes to live on the island of ‘Neverland’. There he is met and surrounded by all sorts of creatures, from mermaids to Indians. He also meets the evil pirate Captin Hook (played by: Pete Ashmore), who wants to get revenge on Peter, for cutting his hand off and feeding it to a crocodile. 

 

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Me with James Peake (Slightly), Emilio Lannucci (Peter Pan) & Nicholas Coutu-Langmead (Tootles)

 

A few years later, he comes across a house in London where he meets Wendy (played by: Charlotte Mafham), a thirteen-year-old girl who dreams of meeting Peter. They go over to ‘Neverland’ together and have big grand adventures. 

Now here comes the negative part of this show, in the traditional story there are three children Wendy, John (played by: Nicholas Coutu-Langmead), and Micheal (played by: Alicia McKenzie). But in this version, John and Micheal are only mentioned at the very beginning and end of the show. This is me, for a massive disappointment! I do understand why they company had to do it, due to a lack of cast playing multiple different roles, which in turn actually works really well. In my option, if you are going to perform a really well-known story like ‘Peter Pan’ you have to have the four main characters. 

 

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Me & Charlotte Mafham (Wendy)

 

Anyway, now I’ve got that off my chest and out the way, let’s move on to the positives, and there are many! First, there was a great use of lighting, whether it was on land or at sea the lighting really set the scene. This is something I don’t often see so it made a really nice change. Next, comes to use of musical instruments! Throughout the whole show, all of the cast would play an instrument to sing songs or set the atmosphere! This for me is always a great addition. I have only ever seen this is one other time, and that was when I went to go see ‘Wind in the Willows’ last year. I loved the idea then, and I still love it now.

Honestly, I could go on and on about all the lovely things they did during the show, but then I’d go on forever, but there is one more thing I have to mention. Tinker-Bell (played by: Alicia McKenzie) whilst watching the show, I thought was just come up with random noises and talking complete rubbish, but after speaking to some of the cast after the show, it turned out that what she was saying was actually her lines! She had been given a script which actually had lines for Tinker-Belle which I thought was just amazing!  

 

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Photo of the stage before the start of the show. Everything is covered in sheets and is light by blue lighting

 

Let us move to the rating:   

People With a Visually Impairment: You will have a problem watching this show. With this, I think it would be wise to go on a Touch-Tour if you would like a better understanding of what physically is going on stage. But in terms of understanding the story, you will have no problem. The great use of lighting will be of a massive help in understanding where the scene is taking place.  

People With No Vision: Honestly, due to the amount of visuals and lighting throughout the show Audio Description is a must here. But in terms of understanding the story, again you will have no problems.  

‘Peter Pan’ is running at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester from 28th July until 26th August. This show is very family friendly so if you have any small children they are going to love it! If you would like to get tickets you can find the website to the theatre by clicking HERE.

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic