The Mercury Theatre 2019 Pantomime – ‘Cinderella’

Hi everyone,

So I’m gonna be honest, this year we have a little bit of a problem. I’ve been reviewing at the Mercury Theatre for four years (I think) now and during those years, I have gone and reviewed their Christmas Pantomime each year. So here is the dilemma…I’m running out of good things to say! Mercury Theatre, next year you will have to make the show not very good on purpose, so then it will be easier!

Anyway, onto this years’ Pantomime of ‘Cinderella’! I think we all know the story of ‘Cinderella’ but just for some reason you don’t, I’ll give you a shorter version. So a little grows up with her father, who has to remarry, so he marries Ella’s Step-Mother, not long after the wedding he tragically dies and then from that time on she turns Ella into a slave and makes her do all the chores of the house. Along the way, there are two ugly Step-Sisters, Ella’s good friend Buttons, a Fairy Godmother and of course a handsome Prince. Oh and in this version, a duck!

Image shows Cinderella in her sky blue glittery ball gown, and the prince in his ball golden suit gazing into eachothers eyes! Photography By Pamela Raith

Photography By Pamela Raith

From the get-go, as usual, it was all set up to be once again one of the highlight shows of the year. I arrived at the Abbey Field, which is currently The Mercury Theatre’s home away from home whilst the remodeling project at their main theatre is being carried out. Once I arrived I was greeted by a lovely staff member how showed me to the information desk. Once the theatre I had arrived, they took me to a place where Blossom would be comfortable. Whilst I watched the show. I then sat down whilst I waited for the doors to open. Now the Abbey Field is a massive almost circus-like tent with acres of space with plenty of seating. I was shown my seat so I sat down. After a sat down for a few minutes, I thought to myself ‘This, I think is a little too far back, and I’m going to struggle to see what’s doing on.’ Now I know The Mercury would have put me closer to the stage if they could have, so I didn’t think much of it. ‘If someone comes and checks on me, then I’ll ask if it’s possible I could move.’ I thought, but I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it. Right on cue, as though they had read my mind, a member of staff came to check on me, I ask politely if there was any possibility I could move a little closer as so then I could have a better view of what was happening. Within seconds I was moved to the front row. I always have to credit the support staff, they truly are amazing and honestly go over a beyond to help you! Outstanding service and support, thank you!   

Image shows both the Ugly Step Sister one, in a lime green dress the other in a neon pink dress posing with thier step mother who is wear all black looking into the audience, ornage and pink lights around them. Photography By Pamela Raith

Photography By Pamela Raith

The stage before the show was surrounded by start lights and lots and lots of glitter! It just would be Panto without the glitter. The safety curtain had a royal blue background, with a white magical starry trail going across it. Once the show had started, I could already tell this was going to be fun, there was a lot of flashing lights, which at a pantomime is expected, so this is something to bear in mind if like me you are light-sensitive. You could tell from start to finish all the cast had an awesome time! For the first half an hour or so, the audience was a little quiet and dead, so there was much for the cast to bounce off of. But as the night went on the crowd warmed up and go into the show.

As always the standard of the show was excellent, the acting from all the cast was truly on point. We even had the return of Anthony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Superville as the two ugly sisters. As usual, they had the audience in the palm of their hands. These two are always first class every year, and it is always a real treat seeing your comedy talents, amazing as always well done both, it wouldn’t be The Mercury Panto without you, it really wouldn’t. There’s not much, I can say about the actual show, that I haven’t said in previous years. You could tell from beginning to end that everyone had massive fun, Anthony played with the audience in little bits throughout the show, and had the audience in stitches. But all the cast were amazing, well done to all!

To sum up then, this year’s pantomime of ‘Cinderella’ is a must-see this Christmas and New Year! It is honestly the best Pantomime in the whole of Essex! You will not be disappointed in the slightest! I am personally heading to see it again in a couple of weeks with my family, and I can’t wait to see it again!

‘Cinderella’ is running at The Mercury Theatre – Abbey Field from the 30th November until 5th January 2020! Get your tickets here now!

Overall rating for Visually Impaired:

You will have an amazing here! There is an Audio Description performance available, but if you can’t seem to get tickets for that then I honestly think you’d be fine without. Most of the jokes and gags are all pretty much said, so you won’t have a problem accessing them. However, if it is a personal preference then go for it. As I mentioned previously if you are light-sensitive then I would remember this when booking seats. I would say for the best view, I recommend seating on rows D or E and will have a good view from there. The rest of the venue is completely lit with lots of lights, and the theatre are more than happy to dog-sit your Guide Dog should you need it, but I would recommend telling them this in advance so they had plenty of notice.

I hope you all have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas, and I hope to see you all in the New Year!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!   

Image shows the title image of Cinderella, with a blue background in the foreground shows a clock face striking midnight and a flight of stairs!

‘Oliver’ – At Abbey Field

Hi everyone, and I’m finally back with another theatre review! The theatre season has finally started back up again. So I’m very excited to see what I get the chance to see this year! But this year it is slightly different…

This year The Mercury Theatre in Colchester is under some renovations, so for the next six months or so, they will be performing under a tent theatre at Abbey Field. This has been a first for me to see a theatre show outside. So I do have somethings to say about that, but first let’s talk about the show ‘Oliver’ adapted for Charles Dickens’s novel by Lionel Bart, as was performed by The Colchester Operatic Society.

I have review one of these shows before a few years ago called ‘Jekyll and Hyde – The Musical’ and I personally went to see last year’s performance of ‘Annie’. On both occasions, the shows have been both of a really good standard, so I was expecting the same here.

I first need to say, that it was very clear from the start that it was very clear that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves from start to finish. Oliver played by Archie Ball seemed a tad nervous to begin with but as the show went on he grew more and more in confidence, and having heard this was his first show with The COS and to play such an iconic role for your first show is such an achievement! The acting was excellent and it was obvious he spent a long time learning the lines! Well Done!

Nancy played by Leanne Field was outstanding from the moment she entered the stage, she had the old victorian London accent down to a tee. She even managed to keep it up whilst singing the songs which was to me very impressive! On the topic of her singing, what can I say, it was nothing more than excellent and extraordinary! She really stood out, and to play such a well known and iconic role as Nancy, amazing! Playing Nancy is one of the hardest roles in theatre so Leanne defiantly has done that role justice!

All the cast were excellent! If I sat here and mentioned everyone, me and you would be here all here. They were all just amazing!

On to the show itself, there were times in the show were for me the lights were very bright. So I struggled to see certain parts of the show, but I don’t think they were any major plot points so I don’t think you will miss out on anything, just something to remember if you are light sensitive.

There were some parts for the show where some of the characters were in the heart of London surrounded by various stalls and markets. On a couple of occasions, an actress came out in a wheelchair, playing various roles, from a newspaper saleswoman or just a stand-in as an extra. I thought this was an excellent example of inclusiveness and involvement which for me was lovely to see! More theatre companies and shows should take note of this and do this even more than they do!

Wayne Setford playing Bill Sikes played the role very well. The character of Bill Sikes is known for being the best robber and pick-pocketer in London and therefore is very feared even by Fagan himself. For me, I didn’t get the sense he was as feared as he should have been for an audience perspective. Sure the characters feared him as they should. But for me personally, the fear didn’t really come across to the audience. But like I said he played the role very well and was a good performance. It also would have been nice to see his dog Bullseye, but I can sort of see why they didn’t have him in this version.

Onto the venue itself, like I said at the beginning this is the first time I have watched a full theatre show in an outside tent, so before heading to the show I was interested to see how they would pull it off from a Visually Impaired point of view, and I have to see I was quite impressed! Throughout the tenure, it was very well lit. As you enter the venue you get to walk on a plastic walkway which was nice to see so then you didn’t have to walk on uneven ground which is good for cane users, as I know for personal experience, walking on grass with a cane is not easy! Once you walk into the venue you get to walk on carpet. Some of the areas of the carpeted areas were a little uneven especially walking to our seats, and some of that area some of the carpet was a little high and lose so could be very easy to trip if you have limited vision, so might be something they will change in the future.

As we were walking to our seats, these areas are quite dark, so they put small white fairy lights on the floor and on the ceiling. So was a little easier, again this was a little bright at first, so maybe look straight at them like I did a couple of times! But was a really nice touch as was very well thought out! As the tent was in a field it would be very easy to take your Guide Dog for a toilet should you need to.

When we came to sitting down, we were sitting on the end of a row, so was very easy for us, there was limited legroom, so if you are sitting more into the middle of the row, and you come across who are already sitting down and you try yo get past, you might find it little difficult even if they stand, so if your booking I’d try and get an end seat, it also has the added benefit as during the show some of the cast come out into the audience so then you will get to see some of them up close.

We were sitting in Row D so we were very close to the stage which was excellent as the stage was very close to the front row so I could see everything very clearly which was great, even though I did have a tall person in front of me!

Overall the venue is very good, and I had no major problems if you did have any problems the staff are very helpful and will try to help you as best they can, so if in doubt just ask!

Low Vision Guests – I think you have no problem with the show, I would recommend sitting a couple of rows back from the front as you maybe need to crank your neck in a few places to see what is going out as some of the show are on high platforms.

No Vision Guests – I think Audio Description would be good here, a lot of the story is dialogue and songs so if you can’t seem to get an AD performance I don’t think it will be a huge problem, just maybe a friend with you, just in case there are any bits of the show you struggle with. 

In conclusion then overall it was a great show and a great venue! I would defiantly recommend if you fancy a good night out! It was really fun which some brilliant comical moments and a very well-told story!

‘Oliver’ is running at The Mercury – Abbey Field’ from the 27th of September until the 12th of October 2019. If you fancy tickets you can find them by clicking HERE which will take you to The Mercury Theatre website!

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic!

Rehearsal video/Trailer:

 

Caroline’s Kitchen – By Torben Betts

Hi everyone, I thought I come back at you with another review. This time its a comedy called ‘Caroline’s Kitchen’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester and touring around the UK.

‘Caroline’s Kitchen’ tells the story of Caroline a famous TV chef who is trying to juggle her fame, her marriage, her relationship with her son and just about everything else. But not everything goes the quite what she expects.

I have to say that first off, this was a lot of fun, there was plenty of humor and laugher throughout the whole play. There were some brilliant performances from all the cast, Aden Gillett particularly stood out to me as an actor with bags of experience, and you could tell right from the outset that he was thoroughly enjoying every minute along with Caroline Langrishe starring as ‘Caroline’.

The set itself was clear, with plenty of natural light, which was excellent as you could quite clearly see what was going on. On this occasion I had to sit at a bit of an angle of there was a lot of seats that had already been booked out for this show. There was pretty much a full house. Before the show began I was a little concerned that props and other pieces of the set would be directly in my line of sight which would make things a little difficult, however within seconds of the show starting, these certain things and props were removed, so in the end, there was no problem.

There is some use of flashing lights and some loud noises at certain points of the show, but there are over soon enough, within seconds so its something to keep in mind but I believe it will not cause a big problem for most of you. But again it’s something to keep in mind should lighting be a problem for you.

Overall then, I definitely think this is something worth seeing, its really great fun and with lots of laughs. You have a real connection with the main characters, and its a great night out in general if you need a night out. Again really good fun!

Onto the ratings:

People With A Visual Impairment:

Honestly, there is no problem here at all. It won’t matter where you sit, although this will depend on the individual theatre that this show is playing at. If there is a certain seat you like to sit at then I would go with that first, but if you can’t seem to get that seat, then you shouldn’t worry, you won’t be missing anything.

People With No Vision:

I think you will not have too much trouble here. Sure there is the odd scene where the humor is visual so, you may need a little help from a sighted friend. But most of the show and jokes are verbal. So I think you will get as much out of the show as the rest of the audience. Audio Description and Touch Tours performances are available should you have a personal preference to have Audio Description. But should you not be able to get tickets for these performances then a normal performance will be fine to go to.

The show ‘Caroline’s Kitchen’ is running at The Mercury Theatre from the 9th until 13th April 2019, If you would like to book tickets for the run at The Mercury Theatre then you can click HERE for their website. 

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic.

Trailer:

Ain’t Misbehavin’ – The Fats Waller Musical

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another review!

Recently I went to go and see ‘Ain’t Misbehavin” at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester! This was a ‘Made in Colchester’ production, so as always with these shows there was a very good crowd and a lot of audience members which is always nice to see.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a jazz and swing show, with various shows from the jazz era of music, with a lot of singing and dancing throughout. If your a big fan of this type of music then you’re going to feel right at home here. There was a lovely use of lighting and colour with the major colour without the whole show being gold. The colours of the costumes really stood out which was great so then I could follow where each cast member was at certain points of the show.

photo shows all the cast dancing and singing with a full band and piano playing the background

There was little story during the whole show, it had more of a concert feel, then an actually musical which for me was a little disappointing, as I tend to like a good balance of story and music. During the first half, I really struggled to follow and understand what was going on. The second half was much more enjoyable, as the songs were more upbeat, fun and there was more humor in some, which was a very much welcome change. The singing from all the cast was very good. Carly Mercedes Dyer particularly stood out for me. her vocal range was great and good use of volume.

To sum up, if you are a big fan of jazz music and that era of history, then you will love this show, and it is a good night out! But if your not a huge fan of this time of music, then I would maybe give this one a pass and look forward to see what the ‘Made in Colchester’ come up with next. As all ‘Made in Colchester’ are always good fun and enjoyable!

photo shows one of the male singers Wayne Robinson singing to the audience. He is wear a blue wastecoat with blue suit trousers, plain blue shirt, a red white dotted tie and a blue Fedora like hat.

People With A Visual Impairment:  There is a good use of lighting colour and great costumes so you will have no problem with this show at all. I don’t think there is a certain seat or row I would recommend here, but if you get a seat right a the back, then you might struggle.

People With No Vision: All of the show is singing and dancing, so as a result, the show is completely visual. But having said that, your not really missing much other than dancing, which is of good quality. But I feel doesn’t really add to the story. There is an Audio Description performance available along with a touch tour.

‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ is running at The Mercury Theatre from 15th until 30th March and then it is running at The Southwalk Playhouse from 19th April until 1st June 2019.

Until Next Time.

The VI Critic

‘Noughts & Crosses’ By Malorie Blackman

Hi everyone, Well it’s back! The theatre season is back, and its come back with a bang.

I recently went to go and see ‘Noughts and Crosses’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester. This show was uplifting, humorous, gripping and intense to say the least.

‘Noughts and Crosses’ as a story about power, influence and control with a love story in the middle of all of that. It is about the lives of two young people, but both at different sides of social and racial classes. It is a concoction of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Les Miserables’ all rolled into one.

The two main characters of ‘Sephy’ (Heather Agyepong) and Callum (Billy Harris) right from start you definitely get the sense that these are two very strong characters with strong views on the current political situation. The population of the UK is split into two different categories with the higher classes classed as ‘Crosses’ and the lower classes ‘Noughts’. Within the first ten minutes you get the feeling that the ‘Noughts’ have been placed at the lowest of the low in society and want to try everything to get back on top, whereas the ‘Crosses’ are automatically entitled to everything e.g. free public education, which seems to be the front point of the story.

Photo shows Sephy’ (Heather Agyepong) and Callum (Billy Harris) cuddling together, wrapped up in grey blanket. Sitting up against a red mental bed

As the story continues the ‘Noughts’ start a resistance and try to put matters into there own hands. As a result of this, ‘Sephy’ and ‘Callum’s families are at the front of all that is going on, and as a consequence, their strong friendship is effected.

Throughout the show, there is a strong use of strobe light, and loud noises, which times affected my eyes especially the lighting so this is definitely something low vision guests will need to think about and remember, it is never on for long but does repeat a few times. Also, there are many loud noises very frequently, so if you have a guide dog this might be a show where being a guide dog owner myself I would recommend leaving them with the front of house staff, as I know my dog doesn’t like loud sounds and flashing lights. Those are the only negatives, the whole show was performed brilliantly by all the cast, and if the show had a long run I would go and see it again. On this occasion,

I sat five or six rows back from the front, so I was unable to see the characters facial expressions, however, due to the great lighting and script I was able to follow along despite this. Also as a side note, when I leave my Guide Dog Blossom with staff, I use my cane to get around from then on. However, of this particular night in my rush out the door, I had forgotten it. Therefore I had to ask for some assurance from staff to take me to key spaces throughout the night, and they did this with no problem asking me where I wanted to go, and if I didn’t know then would offer suggestions. At the interval, they came to my seat and offered to take me to the bar, and asked if I needed to go to the bathroom. At the end of the show, they came back to my seat again and guided me out of the crowd off people heading for the exit, and would take me back to Blossom. Really excellent customer service! Five stars Mercury Theatre!

Photo shows Sephy’ (Heather Agyepong) wearing a red school uniform looking into the distance with two other students behind her poking fun of her.

I was thoroughly immersed in the story and there were times where I was almost off my seat literally, fearing for the characters and what was about to happen, and in some cases felt it was the wrong decision. I’ve always felt that if a show has me like that throughout it is definitely worth your money and time. An excellent night out!

People With A Visual Impairment:

As mentioned previously the strobe lighting is defiantly something to keep in mind and prepare yourself for. Although I personally didn’t do this, I am sure if you asked the theatre, they would politely tell you when in the show these will be. But this shouldn’t be something to put you off by any means.

People With No Vision:

I think due to the excellent story and the amount of dialogue throughout you won’t have a problem. I think, in this case, Audio Description is a preference if you would like to have AD then book an AD performance, but if you can’t I really wouldn’t worry, you will do just fine without it, with the amount of use of sound, dialogue and audio clips used.

‘Noughts & Crosses’ is running at The Mercury from the 5th – 9th March, but it is touring around the country so if you can’t seem to get tickets here, then there will be plenty of places to go see it, and it is so worth the travel. If you are interested in tickets, I will leave a link for the Mercury Theatre here and for the actual show website here so you can see which other theatres it is playing at.

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic

 

Trailer: Please Note – Trailer is not Audio Described.

 

All Photos are Copyrighted By The Mercury Theatre

Mercury Theatre’s Christmas Pantomime of ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’

Hi Everyone! Welcome back to another review!

It’s Christmas! Which means only one thing in theatre land…it’s pantomime season! This is by far my favourite time of year because of no matter what pantomime you go to your always guaranteed a good time!

This year, once again we’re back at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester for this year’s pantomime of ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’! After going to The Mercury Theatre Pantos for some years now, there’s not a lot about them that I’ve not already said in previous years. What I can say, is that this year it was absolutely sublime and just around first class!

Photo shows Antony-Stuart-Hicks as 'Dolly Trott' she is a red polkadot dress with the base colour being bright red with white dots. She is also wearing a bright pink boe on her head.

All of the cast were just brilliant, and out of this world. But it’s not a Mercury Theatre pantomime without Antony-Stuart-Hicks playing this ‘Dolly Trott’ Jack’s Mum who runs an ice-cream dairy, and Dale Superville as the family cow ‘Day-Z’ and yes it is actually spelled like that! These two were comedy gold as they are every year! Antony, as he does every year, had the audience rolling with laughter within the first thirty seconds of being on stage! There was even one point where he even came out into the audience and spotted me sitting on the end of a row, and let’s just say what happened next I was not expecting. But as soon as he saw me I knew something was coming! Mercury Theatre if your reading this, get this two back next year whatever the cost! They make the show that extra special thing that it is, and without them, it just wouldn’t be as good!

This years pantomime will not disappoint anyone, there is something for everyone both adults and children alike. I always love reviewing the pantomime every year, because when I go I know I don’t have to do a lot as I know it’s already going to be so good, I can just sit back and have a whale of a time! You will not be disappointed at all! Please, everyone, go and see this! I and my family are going again, we always go twice every year as we know it is going to be so much fun!

Photo shows a villiage scene with numerous villagers dancing in the background whilst 'Day-Z' the cow sings a musical number

Onto the ratings!

People With A Visual Impairment: I think you will not have no problem watching this show, there is a good use of bright colours and good use of lighting, there is one point during the show where it does get dark and pyrotechnics are used throughout, so something to bare in mind. Try and get a seat in either rows ‘D’ or ‘E’ and you will be fine!

People With No Vision: Again here your have no problem there are some gags and jokes that are physical nut honestly there are few and far between, so really nothing to worry about. almost all the show is dialogue so you will have no problem following with the story and what is going on, so if you can’t get tickets for the Audio Deception, then honestly don’t worry just go to a normal performance and your have no problem. 

‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ is at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, Essex running from 24th November until 20th January 2019. The tickets for future performances always selling out fast so I would try and book as soon as possible. There are Audio Description and Touch Tour performances available, so see the theatre for details!

photo shows me and Antony-Stuart-Hicks after the show at the press party. Both me and antony are standing next to each other, with Guide Dog Blossom in the middle. Anthony is smiling very excitedly whilst pointing at me!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” – The Warner Brothers Studio Tour “The Making Of Harry Potter

The ‘Harry Potter’ series by J.K Rowling will always go down as a classic books series along with the likes of ‘The Chronicles Of Narnia’ by C.S Lewis and ‘Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Back in August of this year, me, Guide Dog Blossom, my girlfriend, and family got the chance to go to the ‘Harry Potter Studio Tour’ in London. All have always been huge fans of the series, so we were all really looking forward to this immensely. This trip had been booked a few months before, which is highly recommended as the tickets will sell out really quickly.

Once we had arrived (in a bit of a rush and a panic, as we were running a little late) we made out way through the crowds of people to the ‘Guest Services’ desk. Back when booking the tickets, I had also phoned them up to tell them that both I and my girlfriend were visually impaired so, I wanted to find out what was available to us in terms of accessibility. They answered, by saying that some commentary headsets would be available and that also we would get our own tour guide to take as round the tour.

Once we got the ‘Guest Services’ a lovely staff member by the name of Carmen greeted us! We said that we had booked some assistant and once she came back after checking with staff, she said that she would be happy to take us around. Carmen, help us to the entrance and said that she would return once we had reached the other side. We walked through into a giant room with some huge screens on both side walls showing all the Harry Potter film posters.

Once the staff had filled the room with guests, they began to play a short film, showing an interview with the director of the Harry Potter films David Yates. After, the film had finished, the doors open to a small cinema screen. As I had Blossom with me, the staff kindly placed us on the front row so Blossom could happily lie down. Once everyone had settled and were seated, another staff welcome us again and said that we were going to watch all eight Harry Potter films back-to-back and that he’d see us to three days! Some people were actually quite happy about this!

Photo shows the Goblet Of Fire standing in Great Hall surrounded by the 'age circle'.

I don’t want to go into detail about what happened next, as I don’t want to spoil it for everyone, but what I will say what happened next was amazing! Once we had been through the introduction and were free to roam about as we pleased, Carmen met up with us again and started to takes us around and showed us some key things that you get to see! Whilst going around with her, she showed us some key props and sets from the films and told us somethings that you wouldn’t get to know if you were just going around on your own.

Some of the things Carmen showed us we got to touch and feel to get a better understanding of what it looked like and how it was used in the film. Some of the things Carmen showed I didn’t even think were physically real. When you watch the films, in some scenes you sit there and think ‘ah that was probably done my computer!’ But actually it wasn’t, which was amazing, some things actually moved and worked! It was brilliant! Not only were there things to look at, but there were also things to do! As we were going around the tour, there were several activities using a green screen, that you could dress up as a Hogwarts student and take part in! This was so much fun! Whilst I was going all these, Blossom was left with my mum. I got told later that Blossom had this confused look on her face as if to say: “why is dad sitting on a stick?” After the various activities, your photo and some videos were taken, after which you purchase them. Which of course I did!

Photo shows the set of the Gryffindor common room with red arm chair and a roaring fire place in the background.

Whilst we were going round we got to ask Carmen all these types of questions and almost every question she expertly knew the answer to. There were a few she didn’t know, but to be fair they were some pretty daft ones, mostly asked by me! Once we had got halfway around the tour, there was a large cafeteria, where you could buy food and drink, we had already eaten before we had arrived, but it was a chance for us to take a breather and take the load off. I went and bought a ‘Butter Beer’ whilst my mum, brother and my girlfriend all had normal soft drinks. Carmen showed us to a table and said that she would go off and have a break and come to us.

After about twenty minutes, Carmen came back and we continued the tour. We moved on and went to see some physical sets, which the actors had actually used, we got to go in them!! Which was again amazing! Every time I sit and watch a Harry Potter film now, I sit there and think ‘I’ve seen that’ or ‘I’ve been in there’ or I’ve touched that!’ Carmen showed us some special effects props which again we got to touch and feel, at one point she showed us a hand that we got to touch. At the time we felt really strange because even though you knew it wasn’t real, it felt like it was, so my brain wasn’t sure how to process that! But then came the one thing that blew us all away! We turned around a corner, and there ahead of us was…the Hogwarts castle! The sight was absolutely beautiful, it was all lit up and cycle from day to nighttime. At night all the lights in Hogwarts Castle lit up, and it felt as though it was alive! We spent some time taking numerous photos, I had taken so many photos that day, but one of the photos, of me, and my girlfriend standing in front of the Hogwarts castle is by far my favorite photo of the whole visit! To the point where now, I have it framed and sitting on display at home.

Photo shows a photo of the giant 'mirror of erised' reflecting some of the crowd.

We could have spent hours in that one room alone, and truthfully I didn’t want to leave! They had music playing from ‘Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire’. Now, when I listen to that song it always that’s me back to that one moment!

Erm…anyway moving on! Once we had exited, we then came to the end of the tour and into the shop! Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I really enjoy shopping, so combining ‘Harry Potter’ with shopping…fatal! Now granted I went online to their website a few days before so I already knew what I wanted. There were a few times where my mum had to say to me: “now are you ever going to use or wear that?” “probably not…” I said, “but it’s Harry Potter!” In the end, I only came out with two items, a Gryffindor jumper, and a Gryffindor backpack and was red with gold zips!

After we had paid (well, I paid), Carmen then escorted us back to the car, I let Blossom go to the toilet as she had been so good whilst going around, that she hadn’t had a chance. I think even she enjoyed herself, there was one moment where we went into the forbidden forest and she wasn’t a fan, so Carmen asked for the sound effects to be turned off whilst we were going through which was lovely of her to think of. Blossom then came face-to-face with a big mechanical version of Buckbeck which she was not a fan, so she quickly decided to pull me away from.

photo shows me, my girlfriend and blossom standing in front of the Hogwarts Express

Overall, we had such an amazing time! Carmen if your reading this again you were amazing! You really made our trip the extra little bit special for us thank you! I would highly recommend you go if you blind or visually impaired. If you are worried about not being able to see anything, don’t! All the staff were great and super accommodating! If you have certain accessibility requirements, they will be more than happy to accommodate!

Some top tips then if you are, or deciding to go in the near future:

  • Book Months in Advance – I highly recommend you book your tickets months in advance, they will book up so quickly. This isn’t something you can just turn up to, as it is so immensely popular!

  • Phone up the studio tours to book disability assistant and access tickets – If you want to book disabled tickets, you will need to phone and do this. You will need to book one adult ticket to allow for a free entry for a carer. The way I did this, was I phoned up asking about disability tickets, and what they told me was I had to go online and book the adult tickets first, then phone them back and book the carer tickets. However, I think there now is an option to phone them and book everything together. But phone and check with them,

  • Going Around the Tour – When going around the tour either with a tour guide or on your own, take your time, the majority of the props and sets that you get to see is in the FIRST section, so take your time and look at everything, because once you leave the first section you can’t go back!

  • Take Plenty Of Spending Money – Throughout the tour, and shop there is so much you can buy and purchase, these things are not cheap, they are quite expensive! There are now two shops at the studio tours, One during the tour and one at the end. There might some items in one shop that you can’t get in the other. So have a look in both, but in my experience, the majority of items are in the bigger shop at the end.

  • It’s going to be very crowded – As the Harry Potter Studios is so popular all over the world, you will get lots of people going to the tour at the same time as you, both people from the U.K and tourists from around the world. If you struggle with crowds or struggle to find your way in them, then let the studios know before you arrive, that way you can be accommodated and help with this as much as possible.

  • Going to the tour with your Guide Dog – obviously, by law, your Guide Dog can accompany you throughout the tour and other areas, when I went with Blossom they had no problem with her being that what so ever. However, it is a good idea to bring your Guide Dogs I.D booklet with you just in case you are asked to present it. They didn’t ask me in my case, but that doesn’t mean to say they might not. Also throughout the tour, once you start, there is nowhere for your dog to go to the toilet, so make sure your dog gets the chance to go before you enter the building.

  • Going through security – When you arrive you will have to go through a security check. Don’t worry it is not too intense, but they will have to check your bag before you enter, so be mindful of this before you arrive.

The ‘Harry Potter Studios’ is a fanatic place to visit, I would highly recommend it to anyone. If you haven’t got the chance to go yet I strongly suggest you do! You won’t be disappointed!!

The last photo shows me and my girlfriend standing in front of the Hogwarts castle (my favourite photo!)

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic!

Nicola Werenowska’s – ‘Silence’

Hi Everyone,

Coming back to you with another review, look at that two shows this month! On Wednesday night I went to see ‘Silence’ by Nicola Werenowska at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester.

‘Silence’ is the story of three women: one a mother, a daughter and a grandmother all of polish decent. The way, the show was written and was directed brilliantly, but very interesting. I have been going to shows for many years, but this is the first time I have seen a show where it is performed entirely in third person.

This was very interesting to me. I was expecting it to be a very traditional play with normal scenes where the characters would interact with each other, and yes there was some of that, but it was kind if here and there, only to expand on the story. There was very little scenery and very little props which I think only added to the character of the whole show.

Photo shows all three characters, the grandmother is holding a new-born baby, looking at her granddaughter. Whilst the mother is looking over her shoulder all looking very happy.

The show tells the story of one family but from three very different perspectives. one from a young twenty-something year old, about to come out of university, to a middle-aged mother, who is struggling to connect with her husband and daughter. To a polish grandmother very set in her ways and likes everything just so.

With all these things put together, comes a show that I have never seen before, but comes across wonderfully and brilliantly. Acting from all three actresses was amazing! You could really tell and touch upon the emotion that each character had, and you could really understand what each character was going through. 

Photo shows all the three characters. Both the daughter and the grand mother are sitting on grey chairs, both looking concerned. Whilst the mother, is leaning over her daughter with her hand on her left sounder trying to reassure her.

Having all three characters, all on stage, all doing different things, in different places, all at the same time, was a little confusing at first, but after a few scenes of the show, you picked it up quickly and were able to keep track. There were times where I didn’t quite understand something, but then the show would touch upon it again, so then it made it easier to understand. One thing  I wanted to outline is the great use of costume. As the stage, set, and three chairs that were used throughout the show were all grey. It made the colours of the costumes of all three characters stand out hugely, so I can only give massive praise to the director here because then the characters more so much easier to see! I later found out whilst talking to the director, that through the show the character’s costumes would get brighter as the show progressed. Which I didn’t spot at the time, but it wasn’t until they said that I could see it, and that was brilliantly done!

Onto the rating then:

People Who A Visual Impaired: You will have no problem here, as the show is performed in the theatre’s studio it was nice and close so you can see that was going. The use of colour against the grey background, is great, because if you can limited vision then you will be able to track each character quite easily.  

People With No Vision: Again with this show I think your do fine here, most of the show is dialogue with never little action, the actors will move from one end of the stage to the other from time to time. But as the space is so small, you should be able to track this very easily, and know where all three characters are at one time. There is an Audio Description available (see website for details) but if you can seem to get a ticket then if you go to a normal performance then you should have no problem.  

‘Silence is running at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester from 12th – 20th of October, but it is also touring around the UK. So if for some reason you can’t get a ticket at The Mercury, Then I will leave a link for the show below also so you can see where they are going to be playing next.

As always I will leave a link to The Mercury website, you can find a link to show and ticket information: Here

You can also find a link to the actual show: Here

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic 

Daniel DeFoe’s ‘Moll Flanders’

Hi Everyone,

Now I don’t normally do this right at the beginning of a review, but please before you read this go and get tickets for this show! Was Absolutely brilliant!

Right now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to the review of ‘Moll Flanders’.

‘Moll Flanders’ based on the novel by Daniel Foe is about the life of young ‘lady’ during 1683 London. The story talks about her rather miraculous life, and what she has to go through during that time.

This is one amazing story! accompanied by the absolutely amazing cast, set design, lighting, costume everything really. When I got to the theatre I had bought myself a drink and some sweets, but not once did I touch them, as I was so engrossed into the show and story. There was a great use of light and darkness, the acting by all the cast was sublime. Some of the best I’ve seen in many years.

Photo shows full cast of stage, with the character 'Daniel DeFoe' setting the scene. The light is a mixture of reds and oranges. Daniel is standing centre stage with the title 'Moll Flanders' behind him on a canvas.

There were a few times where the cast one break the cast would break the ‘4th wall’ to encourage the audience and to make them feel part of the show, which I loved and I thought was an excellent touch. The use of light and costume and lighting put together, made the show gorgeous to look at. There are some singing numbers throughout the show, which the cast sang beautifully especially the main leading lady Eva-Jane Willis. She definitely stood out for me during the show.

Moll Flanders (Eva-Jane-Willis) is stnading in a church in a green and gold coat looking up into the distance, wondering what she should do with her life.

Though-out the entirety of the show, you could see that the whole cast had a great deal of fun, and enjoyed themselves immensely. There was a fair number of jokes and ‘gags’ which was a very nice touch and made the show very, very enjoyable!

‘Moll Flanders’ is running at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester form 28th of September until 13th of October! I’ve I can find some tickets, I will definitely be going again for sure!

Onto the ratings then:

People With A Vision Impairment: You will have no problem watching this show. There is a great use of lighting during the show and a great use of colour with the costumes. The theatre is traditional so as it is quite small I would say if you can I would sit in row D or E and you’d be fine.

People With No Vision: Here I think your do fine. There is plenty of dialogue that tells the story and definitely enough to understand what is going on in certain particular scenes. But an Audio Description performance with a Touch Tour is available, so get the website for details.

Honestly, everyone if you have the time to go and see this show then I highly recommend you do! It has an excellent story with an extraordinary cast, and trust me it is not to be missed!!

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic

Song From The Show: ‘London Town’

‘Babe The Sheep Pig’

Hi everyone, and welcome to another review. This time, I went to go and see ‘Babe – The Sheep-Pig’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester!

This is definitely a show for all the family! ‘Babe’ tells the story of a farm pig who dreams of becoming a sheepdog, and all his friends at the farm help him to fulfill his dream. But without some scary things happening along the way.

As usual The Mercury Theatre and their ‘Made in Colchester Production’ didn’t disappoint. The show was fun, lively, and upbeat, there was never a dull moment.

There was a lot of humorous moments both for children and adults alike. As this show has a somewhat small cast, most of them having to play multiple characters or animals. The only person who didn’t was the puppeteer who was operating Babe, along with the actress playing ‘Fly’.

'Fly' the sheep is a black and white sheepdog, and she looking at the audience smiling

Like I said at the beginning, this is a show for the whole family, however, there are some scary scenes that younger children may find too much. But I believe if this is the first time taking your children to the theatre, this would be a good show to start them off with! It has elements of a professional production, and I came away with that feeling, which is good for the adults and parents. But there is no doubt this show is aimed at children. The show has a very good message of friendship for children which is always lovely to see!

Also another thing I wanted to point out whilst I was there, was that The Mercury Theatre have now installed boxes in the auditorium, so you can go and sit with your family or party without having to be around the crowd of people, if your children aren’t a big fan of crowds, or has a visually impaired person, like me you find it difficult to walk about in crowds of people!

Overall, ‘Babe’ was excellent and would thoroughly recommend during the school holidays and summer season!

Picture shows Babe and the farmer meeting for the first time, as they look at each other, under a single white light.

People with a visual impairment: I think your do fine here, there’s plenty of light, throughout the show, and plenty of colour. There are a few scenes which are set at night and are quite dark along with strobe lighting!

People who have no Vision: Again, I think your do fine here too. The show will be very easy to follow without audio description and it is very audible and not so much visually, but if you prefer audio description there is a touch tour and audio description performance available!

‘Babe The Sheep-Pig’ is running at The Mercury Theatre between 27th July – 29th August! If you wish to purchase tickets or find out more about the show. You can do so by clicking Here!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic!

Photo of the full cast and Babe, at the end of show with all the cast playing musical instruments and singing and dancing to the final song of the show.