Jim Cartwright’s ‘The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice!’

Hi Everyone,

I’m back with another theatre review! I recently got to go and see ‘The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice!’ A play that is currently touring the UK this year, but I got the chance to see it at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester!

The show by Jim Cartwright tells the story of a shy young girl who, after her father’s sudden death. Does nothing but stay in her family home, looking after her drunken, men-obsessed mother, as well as keeping the home into some sort of order by listening to her old father’s recorders that he had left to her after he died. 

After her mother starts seeing this talent agent Ray Say, it is discovered that Little Voice or ‘LV’ as she’s known to everyone has a talent for doing impressions of famous signers and divas of the past, along with being a really good singer. After LV is pushed into performing at a local club night after night, her mental health starts to decline and the deserter starts to rear its ugly head. 

Little Voice (Christina Bianco) is on stage in a while sparkly dress holding a microphone singing at full volume.

The acting by Shobna Gulati (Mari) and Ian Kelsey (Ray Say) was outstanding, you could tell that their relationship was starting to turn and things like money, power and social status becoming more important to them than their feelings for each other. Christina Bianco has a real talent for singing and doing impressions of other singers, to do both at the same time was an absolute joy to watch and listen to. I could easily go to and watch an evening with her alone! Brilliant performances! Her acting was great too. To be able to switch from a singing and joyous performance to a quiet and very recluse character, then gradually sink into deep and dark despair was sad but amazing to watch. I could not help to feel for the LV character and what she had become. 

There was a great side plot between LV and Billy (Askhay Gulati) a phone line installer and repair man throughout the main plot of the show. How Billy managed to get LV out of her shell and by the end of the show have a relationship of her own with him after all this character had been through was brilliant to see. 

With the house in the foreground everyone is standing outside listening is standing outside listening to little voice who is still in her bedroom singing to a record.

The show deals with a lot of dark tones, including grief, mental health and depression. It handles all of these delicately and gracefully, but also with the respect it deserves. You had a sense of how each character was feeling. and what they were going through down to the brilliant acting by all the cast. But I had a real connection with the LV character and what she must have been going through, and that for me is a sure sign of unbelievable acting!  

People With Low Vision: The set is large, with plenty to look at, my recommendation is to see as close as you feel comfortable to be able to see everything and all the little details, there is little use of brightly colour lights within the show, apart from the club scenes which as a glittering curtain, spotlights and show light bulbs around it.

People With No Vision: Overall the show is very easy to follow, with the odd scene here and there that does have some visual jags and jokes, that you may need to ask a companion for details. But overall easy to follow. Sadly there is no Audio Description performance, but on this occasion, you might be okay with not having one. 

‘The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice’ is running at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester from 21st – 25th June 2022 but is on tour through the UK, If you can manage to get tickets at The Mercury (for which you can find by clicking/tapping here. I’m sure you can find another theatre near you where this show will be playing. Details you can find on the show’s main site by clicking/tapping here! I thoroughly recommend you go and see this show! This is one not to be missed! 

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic  

The advertising poster for the show, a pink background all the main cast (Christina Bianco, Ian Kelsey & Shobna Gulati) With a shot of Little Voice sitting on the floor holding her records in a sweatshirt, jeans and trainers. With the title of "The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice By Jim Cartwright UK Tour 2022' in gold writing. with the o in voice as a music record.

William Shakespeare’s ‘A Comedy Of Errors’

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another review!

I went to this show pretty sure in the knowledge that I knew what the show was going to be about. But boy! I was wrong, let me explain why:

So it has to be said that my knowledge of Shakespeare is very little. I did get the chance to go and see ‘Anthony & Cleopatra’ several years ago performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. But honestly, apart from the plays I did in GCSE English; I have had very little experience of his work. So I didn’t even know that ‘A comedy Of Errors’ was one of his. So I was pleasantly surprised when the show started. 

A short synopsis of the play is as follows: A couple has two sets of twins, they are both quite well off in the world. Meanwhile, a lesser well of the couple has their own set of twin boys. They agree to sell their twin boys to the better couple as slaves. Whilst travelling both parents get separated from each other taking one of each twin with them. Unknown to each other they both end up in the same country not knowing they are related to each other. The whole show is set around the confusion of a Diamond necklace, that one of the twins had bought for his wife.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and some really good and funny comedy situations were added into the show to make it more enticing to a younger audience. must admit that I did struggle to follow along with the story of the show, this is because I can never understand Shakespearean language. However, I do not want to that anything away from the show at all I did have a very enjoyable night. 

Following along with the show access-wise: If you can understand the language that is used you will be fine, there are very few physical and visual gags, but if like me you don’t understand the language. Then you will have to heavily rely on the physical and visual elements of the show. 

In between each scene of the show, there were modern songs sung and played, by the band above the main stage which made the show a lot more enjoyable, because though I struggled I was still able to enjoy the amazing songs sung which I thoroughly enjoyed!

You could tell that all of the cast had so much fun performing this show from start to finish. It was easy the see the amount of strong passion they all had for each other their characters as well as the show as a whole. If you are strongly into your Shakespeare, this is for sure a must-see this year! 

There is both Audio Description and captioned performances available at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester! The show is running from Thursday 19th May 2022 until Saturday 28th May 2022! 

The only thing left for me to say is a Happy Birthday to The Mercury Theatre which is celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year!! Here’s to 50 more marvellous and exciting years!

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic!

A hotel lobby, with an upper balcony. Underneath, is a reception desk with sets of keys behind it. On both sides of the desk are two big sets of doors. Near the front of the stage are two small staircases, going on and off stage, all of the set. is coloured in gold and blue.

Mercury Theatre’s ‘Blackmail’

Hi all,

Here we are with the first theatre review for 2022! To kick things off with a bang, we have a murder!

Okay, not a real murder, I recently went to go and see ‘Blackmail’ at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester! This version is an adaption of the original play written in 1928 by Charles Bennett. Retold by acclaimed playwright Mark Ravenhill tells the story of Alice (Jessie Hills) a little shop girl and her not to be messed with Mother (Lucy Speed), who run a popular shop in Chelsea. Along with Alice’s fiance Harold a Metropolitan Policeman. One night something goes wrong and all their lives are turned upside down in the space of one night.

I have to say first that I thoroughly enjoyed this play! I am a real sucker for crime documentaries and shows so after reading up on the show when I got the invite I knew I was going to enjoy this show. But there are a few things that I would like to touch on here in this post that I thought made it an, even more, enjoyable experience. 

First was how realistic everything was. Thought the show the character would always like cigarettes with matches, pour cups of tea or glasses of water, cut slices of bread amount other things and this was done right. When they pour they poured the tea out of the teapot actual tea would pour out, when they turned on the tap you could hear and see water splashing into the sink! This is something I feel that shows just don’t do enough of. By performing shows in this way it makes them as accessible to the audience as possible. 

photo shows the huge two story set on stage with Alice's mother Ada (Lucy Speed) looking out the side door whilst Harold is standing in this police uniform contemplating in the small kitchen at the back of the shop.
Photo By: Pamela Raith

The use of lighting was excellent, you could see everything that was going on stage very clearly, there was some during the night scenes which were a little tricky to see, but that’s okay, as there were no major actions scenes so I didn’t feel like I was missing much. Even if you have no vision you wouldn’t miss out either as the show is mostly dialogue. My only suggestion would be is to have better contrast with the characters’ costumes between each other and the light, there were times when I struggled to pick out Alice because of the colour of her dress colour in some of the night scenes. But all of the actors’ voices are all different and unique to the character, so if you have no vision you will be able to remember who is who very easily, plus every character’s name is mentioned a good three or four times at least throughout the show, I can’t imagine it would be too much of a problem to keep track of what is going on if you have limited vision.

Photo shows Alice (Jessie Hills) and Ian Tracey (Patrick Walshe McBride) in the back kitchen having a heated confrontation, with Ian Tracey holding a bread knife in a threatening way, whilst keeping th door to the upstairs rooms shut.
Photo By: Pamela Raith

All of the cast were excellent, you could feel the emotion, stress and anxiety of all of them at various points, and you could tell that they all knew their charters very well and connected with them. It is a small cast of only four so trying to remember visually who’s who isn’t too difficult. Each character’s costume is unique to them so that will also help. 

As I said at the beginning, I thoroughly enjoy this show and would happily go and see this again, and a highly recommend you could and seat whilst you can. It has a very limited run at The Mercury Theatre from Thursday 10th March until 19th March 2022. Tickets for the show can be found by ticketing the link here. Hurry up and buy your tickets, you won’t want to miss out on this!

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic 

‘Be Unapologetically You’ Blogging Tag

The words "be unapologetically you" are written in green across a lilac background. The "be" and "you" look like they have been typed whereas "unapologetically" looks as though it has been written with a paintbrush

Hi all!

I was nominated by the lovely Emma from InvincibleWomanOnWheels! Find her post on this blogging tag here! This tag is based on being on honesty and being as honest as you can, so lets see how this goes, but first here are the rules: 

The Be Unapologetically You Tag rules:

Use the Be Unapologetically Tag banner in your post (see above) It can be the featured image or not its up to you.

Include the link to this blogging tag in your post.

Answer the 7 question in this tag.

Nominate 5 to 10 bloggers, link their blogs and tag them on social media to notify them.

But most of all have fun!!

So on the questions!!

Question 1 – Introduce yourself and your blog and while sharing one trivia about you that not many people know?

I’m Alex, I’m 28 and I’m a visually impaired person, I run this site and talk about shows and other experiences and what’s it is like to experiences these things as a visually impaired person! I guess the one thing that people don’t necessarily know about me is that I am a anglican Christian and have been from a number of years.

Question 2 – What topics do you geek out about that you would say are topics that give you bliss?

I have a number of interests, some stay with me all the time, some others come and go, but the two things that stay with me and have done for a number of years, are both theatre/musical theatre and Disney! Both of these interests I’ve had since I was a child and continue to this day! There is something about both these things that just gives me pure joy when I interact with them in various ways!

Question 3 – Do you blog about them? Why or why not? If not, would you like to blog about them sometime?

I blog about my experiences of going to see local theatre when I can and I love to do so, and have done for a number of years! Would I love to do more absolutely! So can’t wait for what’s to come this year of shows! I’ve never told about my love to love for Disney, but if that’s something you would like to hear about then sure of course.

Question 4 – Would you say that you are living life by being unapologetically you? Why or why not? If not, what would your life look like if you were unafraid to share more about the things that make you happy?

I guess it really depends on who I am talking to. If it’s a close friend then of course I will talk about both these topics and others. If I am meeting someone for the first time then I might not, especially if there’s a chance I could work with them in the future. But if people would like to know then sure I will talk about it with them no problem. I guess in the past i’ve been afraid of what people will think of me because of it, but this is something i’m working on to change!

Question 5 – Permission to geek out and be unapologetically you: share with us one thing you fangirl or fanboy over and how you became a fan of it. It can be anything. Your love for soy candles, your favourite food, a boy band, or an underrated film.

So this question was a little tough to answer, because do keep it on topic and stay with the topics I’ve already talked about above or pick something different. Well I thought I’d keep with the theme and talk about my favourite show of all time!

So I number of years ago, I say this because I honestly can’t remember now when I saw this show for the first time because I’ve seen it almost every year since sometimes twice a year! But I went to London to go and see a show called ‘Wicked – The Musical’ I had no clue what this show was about all I knew is that it had something to do with The Wizard Of Oz and that’s all I know. I didn’t even see the poster of the two witches it was just written down so it wasn’t really until I got the theatre which is when I knew more. But I went to go and see this show and feel in love with everything, the characters, the musical, the strong message of its okay to be different and the importance of friendship is something that a absolutely adored, and so now I go and see it every year and its always just as good as the first time I ever went to go and see it all those years ago!

Question 6 – What do you like most about being a fan?

For me, it’s all about the love the fans have for this show, and how we’ve all come together to share our love for the same thing. To be honest that can be said for all the other things I love, like Disney, or the Harry Potter series. The fandoms of all these franchises are that the fans that love them are loving and welcome and that it doesn’t matter who you are, if you love that one thing who cares, I’ve gone to theatre shows over the years where I’ve sat next to someone in the theatre and talked about different theatre shows that love the whole time before the show starts, I never see these people again, but they really are the loveliest people. But that can be said for all the things I am a fan of. 

Question 7 – Share a fun or unforgettable fan experience.

Wow, this is hard, but I guess it would have to be that one time I went to Disneyland Paris for my birthday one year. So one December my mum surprised me with a weeks trip to Disneyland Paris for my birthday, I was so excited as because even though I was sixteen I had never gone to Disneyland a Christmas before! So I was actually at Disney for on my birthday and I was so excited! After a full day in the parks we went to a character dinner restaurant. This is where a number of Disney characters come to your table and interact with you and take pictures. I have always found this to be the most accessible way of getting to meet characters so we have always done it! Anyway, we were finishing dinner and all of a sudden this loud happy birthday music played, and I’m thinking ‘nah this isn’t for me, there’s probably a young child somewhere here experiencing their own birthday’. when all of a sudden a cast member came and put a Disneyland Paris cake on the table, ever single character came over including Mickey and Minnie and everyone sang happy birthday! I was so lovely, each character came and gave me a hug, then once everything had settled down we finally started eating some of the cake. 

So with all that nostalgia out if way! I tag the following people:

Nicola from ViewFromAWalkingFrame.co.uk

Helen from crispy confessions.com

Emily from fashioneyesta.com

Holly from lifeofablindgirl.com

Glen from welleyenever.com

I hope you have all had fun, learning a little more about me! A a huge thank you for Emma from Invinceablewheels again, check out her post here.

Until Next Time!
The VI Critic  

Andrew Pollard’s ‘Aladdin!’ at The Mercury Theatre

Hello everyone and welcome! 

I know this post has been a little time coming as I’ve not been to as many shows this year (as you can imagine with the world the way it is).  But hopefully I will be able to attend and review more shows in the coming year.
Watching a pantomime at Christmas as a theatre-goer is my favourite thing to do and this year was no exception.

Widow Twankey, Humphrey the Camel & The Emperor of Colchestaria are all sicking on a bench looking all worried and scared.
Antony Staurt-Hicks – Dale Superville – Minal Patel
Photo By: Marc Brenner

A brief overview of the show:
A young Aladdin desperately wants to become a famous rock star. 
He meets Jasmine the Emperor’s daughter, falls in love with her and resolves to find a way to become so rich that he can marry her.  Meanwhile, our antagonist the evil ‘Fabra Cadabra’ believes that she deserves all the power in the world.  Jasmine is then kidnapped.  Hoping that the ‘power of rock’ will protect him, Aladdin goes on a quest with Genie and his friends to save Jasmine from Fabra Cadabra in the “Land of the Mummies”.

Now the review!

I have been in the audience of every Mercury Theatre pantomime since 2016 but for me, this has to be the best pantomime I have seen.  So much fun, frolics and fantastic acting! This is not one to miss!
It has everything a great panto needs: sing along songs, dancing, comedy and so much laughter from start to finish.
James Hameed who plays Aladdin is a super star with a truly amazing singing voice. 
There is great chemistry between Aladdin and Jasmine (Danielle Kassaraté), as with all the cast as a whole.
I am certain that the players had a blast performing the show and this really translated well to the audience.
It was so easy to be swept up in the performance. 

Aladdin, wearing a golden and white hasten clothing, smiling holding Jasmine, who is wearing a green hasten costume.
Danielle Kassarate & James Hameed
Photo By: Marc Brenner

Once again the comedy duo that is Antony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Supervillie were on fire. 
Not being on stage for two years has not stopped them at all!  They had the whole audience in stitches.
I am so happy to see them both together again. They are an absolute joy to watch, making the night even more special!  I personally can’t wait to see the duo again, maybe in next year’s panto? (Hint hint!)

There was a great use of light and colour throughout the whole show.  Each character had their own unique colour and style, so even if with limited vision I was still able to make each character out. 

Despite my limited vision, I could not miss Widow Twankey with her over the top yet fun costumes and hairstyles.
I also found each song in the show recognisable and very easy to sing along with. 

Fabra Cadabra wearing a red glittering costume, is holding a glass ring looking all amazed.
Leonie Spilsbury
Photo By: Marc Brenner

Accessibility

Even if, (like myself) you are someone with very limited vision, I think you will have a wonderful time! 
There are some parts of the panto which rely upon visual gags but I think the show tries to make sure that you hardly miss anything, including jokes and the storyline. 

I am not sure about a touch tour this year due to health and safety regulations but I did not contact the theatre to ask.
I would like to see more audio described performances. The show is running for a few months and I feel that one is just not enough.

As I said at the beginning of the review, I have seen so many pantomimes performed at The Mercury and this is the best I have ever seen!
Tickets are selling fast, so get yours soon from The Mercury Theatre’s website: here


Aladdin is running from 27th November until 16th January 2022

Trust me when I say, go get your tickets now!

Until Next Time

The VI Critic

Ken Ludwig’s ‘Baskerville’

Hi everyone!

I am so happy to be back in the theatre again after so long out of one! As well as be able to review shows for you again!


The Sherlock Holmes stories are a collection of stories I have been a huge fan of since I was a child. I have watched and read most of the main stories and I do have my personal favourites. There is just something about Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson that just attracts them to you as any long life fan of the duo would know. can be anything from the action and suspense, to be in awe of Holmes’ genius and brilliant mind!

So When I got the option to go and review at Sherlock Holmes show I was shall we say a little excited…? Okay, I was very much excited! The story that Ken Wen Ludwig went with was the iconic Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Hound Of Baskerville’. If you talked to any Sherlock Holmes fan and ask them to name their top five stories I can guarantee this would be one of them!


‘Baskerville’ has tried to keep too original sorry as possible, however, it is slightly adapted as this show is a comedy version. Now hold your horses Holmes’ fans, I had the same thought as you originally of ‘oh dear, what have they done.’ But actually, I was pleasantly surprised!

Imagine of Holmes in a purple blazer holding a black and silver cane, looking concerned, with Waston just behind him looking at Holmes expectantly.
Photo Credit: Pamela Rath

A quick review would be, from beginning to end I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The show is very light-hearted and caters for everyone and anyone including families and children, being the story that it is, there are some scary bits here and there and there is a lot of talk of crime, murder and death as you would come to expect, but being a comedy it tackles these subjects very well even for young children and makes enormous fun of them, but there are some serious moments in there too.


Before beginning to end the show will have you in stitches both children and adults alike! The acting from all the cast was amazing and keep in with the style and mood of the show they were going for, Richard Ede played an excellent Sherlock Holmes’ he made the character his own, not as serious and in some cases cold as I believe Sherlock Holmes to be but light-hearted and welcoming which was brilliant as it set with the rest of the show brilliantly.


Dr Waston played by Eric Stroud kept the audience well informed with the story and what was going on as Dr Waston should! He came across as more down to earth and open than Holmes, but that is as it should be. Both Eric and Richard looked great together as the famous duo and bounced well off each other! You could tell that all the cast had a close bond which is always so nice to see!

Imagine shows Holmes and Waston on the Baskerville moor at night with lanterns walking through the fog of the moors looking very alert!
Photo Credit: Pamela Rath

The use of sound was expertly done, in particular scenes which involve the hound, there were times where it felt like the hound was either behind or the side of you! That’s something I haven’t seen in a long time so well done! There was a great use of costume, during the show Dr Waston has to walk in some very strong wind so his customer was very dramatic and over the top, both for the scene and comic effect which was a great laugh. Other small comic moments make the show I real pleasure to watch and is a great night out for all the family!

People Who Are Visually Impaired: I think this is a great show for you to go and see. The use of light and colour is expertly done and I don’t think you will have any problems here. If you have very limped but some vision you might miss some of the small comic moments during the show, but these don’t take anything from the story so you wouldn’t miss anything. I would recommend either sitting in rows D or E for the best view. But if you need to sit closer to see then by all means do.

People Who Are Blind Or Have No Vision: I think you will have little problems with this show story-wise, as all the important parts of the story are narrated by Dr Waston, and most of the show has very little action. But if you would like the full effect and no to miss any of the comedy be it big or small I could recommend you book an Audio Described performance, these will include a touch tour before the show as well so you will get the full experience. Details of this can be found on The Mercury Theatre’s website under the ‘Access For All’ section. 

‘Baskerville’ is running at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, from Friday 6th until Sunday 22nd August 2021! Book your tickets now, you won’t be disappointed! 

Why ‘Alt Text’ Is Awesome! – #DescribeThePic

Hi all,

Today we all take looking at photos on websites and social media is something we take for granted. But for people who are Blind or Low Vision can be really difficult if someone doesn’t take the time to describe that photos.

Screen Readers

But how exactly do Blind or Low Vision people look at these photos? Well people with Low Vision might choose to use Zoom features to be able to look at a photo or read some text, but it’s a little different for people you have no vision at all. People with no vision use something called a ‘Screen Reader’. A ‘Screen Reader’ is a piece of software, that can either be built into a device like all Apple iOS or Mac products, or in some cases android too. This little of software reads all things on the screen to a Blind person, whether that be text messages, the weather, or even ebooks. But it will always read ‘Alt Text’ on websites to describe photos. 

Alt Text

‘Alt Text’ is a simple piece of code on a website that allows people to add descriptions to photos which Screen Readers can read if the person has ‘Voice Over’ on, but it embedded into the photos, so it is hidden by sight users to your website (social media alt text will be covered below). Websites like ‘Wordpress’ make it very easy to allow owners of a website to add descriptions to photos. For more information on adding alt text to your wordpress website you can click here!

Here are two examples, the first image doesn’t have Alt Text, but the image underneath does:

Photo shows a photo of me and Guide Dog Blossom sitting in a house garden posing for a photo. Blossom is wear her Guide Dog harness.

Social Media

So adding ‘Alt Text to photos to tweets on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook is so, so easy, and even more important now more and more people are now using social media even more! So below I am going to give you some instructions on how to add Alt Text for each of these websites:

Twitter

So adding Alt Text to your photos along with your tweets is as follows:

  1. Firstly, click or tap on the compose tweet button, type out your tweet, then at the bottom, tap or click on the add photos button.
  2. Once you have selected the image, at the bottom right of the thumbnail of the image, there is an alt text button, once tap or clicked another window will appear where you can typed on the description of the photos. 
  3. Once you have typed on the description, then just tap or click then done button, then just tap or click the tweet button.

Instagram

Adding descriptions to your instagram photos goes like this:

  1. Tap on the ‘add photo’ cross at the top right of the app, the dice on the photo.
  2. Once you have added a filter if you chose to, then once the ‘New Post’ window appears click or tap the ‘advanced settings’ option that the very bottom of all the options on the page.
  3. Once there, scroll all the way down the ‘accessibility’ section, under that is the ‘write alt text’ button, tap on that. once there it gives you a huge section for you to be as descriptive as you like! The more descriptive the better!

Facebook

Unfortunately, Facebook does not have a way for you to embed the description into the photo. So the only way around this is to add a photo description underneath your post along with the photo, with the words ‘photo description’ along with the description of the photo.

Adding Alt Text, to photos to some might be an extra thing you have to when you ‘just want to post an image to your friends’. But just taking this little extra step before pressing share. Means that everyone can enjoy your photos including people with vision loss!

I have had the massive honour and privilege, on not doing this post alone! This post has been part of a campaign called #DescribeThePic along with the brilliant Siobhan Meade creator of the YouTube channel ‘Blind Girl Vlogs’ an channel of which you can find here or her twitter here. But also the wonderful Emily Davison who creates fashion and all things Visually Impaired blog posts and videos on her website, YouTube channel, and twitter whom I have follow for a while and it has been a joy to work with!

Thank you Siobhan and Emily for having me! I’ve enjoyed it so much!

I know this is complexly different to what normally post about, but this a topic which is near and dear to me, so I was something that when asked I really wanted to get involved with. So I hope you have got something out of this, and hopefully next time you post an image to social media or website.

If you decided to post a photo in the near future, or decide to make video or blog post also on this same subject, then please do so. I’d would love to hear what you guys think about this! But then you do, please use the hashtag #DescribeThePic on social media, that way people can also see your creations and your opinions too!

Due to world pandemic as many have seen, the theatre industry is none existent! So I am not sure when my next post is going to be, as there will be no Pantomime post this year. But I want to take this time to wish all a Very Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!!

Until Next Time!

The VI Critic

Travelling As A Disabled Person

Hi all, and welcome to another blog post! I know I haven’t been around in a while. But due to the current way the world is right now theatre in genreal has all stop so reviews have also stopped as a result. Hopefully I will be able to get back to writing some more reviews for you all very soon.

But until then, I have something a little different for you today. I thought I would talk about what it is like travelling when you have a disability. But, I won’t be the only one writing about this. I am doing this post, in collaboration with another disability blogger called Emma from ‘InvincibleWomanOnWheels’. Emma is a wheelchair user and writes about her experiences traveling as a disabled person, she talks about different venues she attends and how accessible they are. So if that’s something that you are also interested in, then you can check that out here. Also go and check out her post after reading this, as it also gives another perspective on travelling as a disabled person!

So with that, just get going!!

It’s All In The Planning!

I always think that whether your disabled or not, it is good to plan your journeys well in advance, so you know what your doing and when. So one the day you do travel, you know exactly what is about to happen (or in some cases what should happen). But as a disabled person, planning your journeys is all the more important, especially if like me, you have a Assistance Dog coming along for the ride too.

So once I know where I am going and when. I normally look into planning straight away, or if not then definitely the next day. If it is a long journey, then I will normally go by train, so thats mainly what I am going to focus on there in this post, but some of this can apply to bus too. So the first thing I look at is pertenal trains, what route I am going to take, and how much the tickets are going to cost. I tend to use trainline.com as you can edit your journey as your looking and tell the search engine you want to go via this station, or avoid that station altogether. What I used like about trainline is that if you have a ‘Disability Railcard’ which is something I highly suggest you look at getting as it will automatically give you a third off your train tickets along with a friend, family member, or carer that might be going with you so it is a handy thing to have. As your putting in the ‘from’ and ‘to’ on the search engine it has a section for railcards, and if you have a account with the website it will save this, so next time you go to book tickets you don’t even have to worry about it.

Once I have booked the tickets and i know the train times, the exact route I’m going and the seat reservations (have these up on your screen as they will be very important for this next bit) I then phone up the ‘Travel Assistant’ Department for my local train company, which in my case is Greater Anglica, but it all depends on where you live, if possible I will leave a link here of a general directory. I phone them up and give them my name and postcode, they will check your details with you and then they will ask where you are going from and to. Then will then asking for all your train information including time of departure, seat reservations if any, and any other assistance you might need. If you don’t have a seat reservation, but like me you need a table seat for your assistance dog to go under, or you would like to be near the door of the carriage, then they will do there best to accommodate this.

Once you have given them all the information they need and it is all confirmed then they will send you an email with everything on to refer to should you need to. From my experience it is best to keep this in your inbox on your phone and to hand, as sometimes the indivdal person assisting you might not have been given your seat number or carriage info. In a ideal world they should but it does happen. It is worth noting here, that this DOES NOT London Underground Assistance, if you are going to, travelling through London you will need to seek out Underground staff, sometimes the assistance person who met you off the train will take to someone, but sometimes you might need to do this yourself. Underground staff for me have always been amazing and I can’t fault them in anyway and I have used them for years!

The Actual Travelling

To be honest, for the most part. Travelling normally goes quite well, and everything you booked goes well including train times (although this nation rail we are talking about here) but the odd thing can go wrong. Sometimes, there can be a lack of communication between staff at a certain station, communication between station to station or what type of assistance can be difficult. For example, even though you book the assistance part of your journey weeks in advance, it can be that once you are off the train, no member of staff is there to greet you, or it can be you can be seating there on the train after everyone has gone off and no one has come to help you. I have known people who have been waiting on the platform or on the train for twenty minutes, because nobody has turned up to help them. Believe it or not, this is something that happens a lot. So it could well mean asking for a member of the public to help you. But I am sure many of you are familiar with this, so use your personal judgement when doing this.

If you have seat reservations, then trying to find a seat should be too much of a problem, but trying to find a seat on your own can be challenging. There are ways you can combat this. Depending how confident you are about asking for help, there absolutely nothing wrong in asking someone on the train for help, or asking someone if they will give up their seat. Asking someone to give up there seat is in my experience is the least affective way of finding a seat. Whereas, if you have ask someone for help in finding a seat they will either help you in finding a seat, ask people to give up their seat, or they might even give up thier own depending on if they have gone their good deed for the day or not!

I have personally had to literally sit on the floor in between seating compartments as I haven’t been able to find anywhere to seat. Also a pro tip there, sometimes if you ask a member of staff on the train and say there is no seats available in standard class, and would it be okay to go and sit in first time, sometimes they will let you. Or sometimes if your really lucky Assistance Staff will put in first class themselevs as sometimes believe it or not it is easier for them! I never say no to that, but don’t get too excited as you won’t get any of the first class luxuries (unless you have a really nice mmeber of staff).

Some Other Pro Tips:

Take Lunch With You – I strongly suggest this for two reasons: One, because to be blunt and honest it is a heck of a lot cheaper! But secondly, where you might be seating on the train could be two or maybe three carriges away from the food carrige and you don’t really want to walk all the way down there for just a sandwich and a chocolate bar!

Have your ticket and your Disabled Railcard (if you have one) in the same place- It is a good idea to have your current travelling ticket and your railcard in the same place in your wallet or purse. But if you have one of those travelcard holders then they are great for this. So this is so when someone comes asking for your ticket, you don’t need to fumble and check every pocket. But please don’t leave it on the table once they’ve checked it. I did that once and left it on that train, so when a member of staff asked for it on my next train I didn’t have it! Luckily they were really nice about it and told me not to worry about it.

Make Sure Your Phone Is Charged – Come on! We have all been there, you go to check your seat reversation and you go to your phone and it’s flat! What’s worse is that now you have nothing to listen to, as all of your audiobooks and music are on that phone too! If you have one, bring a portable charge with you. They are no that exsepsive and you can get them pretty much anywhere. If you travel with more than one device say an iPad then you can even get portable charges that will charge both at the same time, but they can be a liitle more pricly but are so worth the money, because as visually Impaired people. We probably use our devices more than the average person.

So there you have it, some advice and what it is like travelling if you are disabled. Please don’t forget to go and check out Emma’s post on her blog which I will link again here. Please do comment below and share your stories. Tweet them to me also using my twitter handle: @MrAlexRamzan and don’t forget to follow me whilst your there and also follow Emma at: @InvincibleWheel! Check her out!!

Until Next Time!
The VI Crtitic

Alex collab header

 

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: