Colchester Operatic Society’s ‘Fame!’

Hi Everyone,

Back again with another review. This time the show was put on by a local drama society in Colchester! If you would like to know more, and maybe even get involved then you can find their website here. Go and check it out! 

Ticketing & Venue

So I was kindly given the tickets by The Mercury Theatre in Colchester! They were incredibly helpful! There is a wide range of ticket options available. You can choose either: a disabled person ticket, or a visually impaired ticket, or if you have an assistance dog, there is also an assistance dog ticket. There is a companion ticket option at £1.50 that can be added with any of those tickets. 

They are very geared up to helping people with all disabilities, not just blind or visually impaired people! All staff are able to offer sighted guided assistance should you require it! If you also have a Guide Dog then the front-of-house staff, are very accommodating and will happily look after your Guide Dog during the performance. If however, you would like your to be with you during the performance then that is something you can also do easily! 

Seating 

So in terms of seating, you are able to book any seat within the auditorium that you require. At this particular performance, I was given seats H 21 and H22. For me, this proved to be a little tricky when it came to certain darker scenes as I was unable to fully make out who was who. I was somehow able to do this due to do this as these scenes being in the second half of the show I knew which character was speaking as I had worked out which character was who due to their voice! If I had to recommend a certain row I would recommend row D if you have Low Vision, as this is close enough where you are still able at least I am able to see the performers’ facial expressions. Which is something I like to do, but you might be different. But if you have No Vision then anywhere in the auditorium you will have the same experience. 

The Show

Overall, the show was very good, You have to consider that all the actors in the show are not professional. But considering this, some of the cast had amazing singing voices! Sadly I am unable to mention certain cast members by name as on my particular evening the programmes were sadly not delivered in time, and at the time of writing this review, there is no cast list on the Mercury website. But you all really were amazing and you all should be really proud of yourselves! 

Throughout the show, there were some technical difficulties with microphones and such so was a little difficult to hear what some of the cast were saying at times, but this was opening night so I think we can forgive them for the odd teething problems! 

Accessibility 

In terms of accessibility for blind and visually impaired people sadly, it is very limited. Unfortunately, there is no Audio Description which I feel these days is a must and should be at least one per show that comes in. But looking at the website there doesn’t seem to be an Audio Described performance, hopefully, this is something that the Colchester Operatic Society can look to change for future performances, as this is disappointing to see. However, there are two captioned performances available. So check out The Mercury Theatre’s website for more details, click here to find out more!

Overall

This was a really fun show to watch, you called tell that all the company thoroughly enjoyed their time on stage and you could really feel the passion they all had for performing, I think some could really go far if they kept at it! The show is running from 10th – 18th September multiple shows a day so this is definitely a watch if you would like to see some up-and-coming talented and you could say you saw them first! 

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

Lord Of The Dance – Dangerous Games

When I researched the show, like I do for all the shows I go and see. This one seemed different. Last night I went to go see ‘Lord of the Dance – Dangerous Games’ at The Ipswich Regent in Ipswich. If I’m honest after researching the show I wasn’t entirely sure whether I would like it or not. But as you will find out later I definitely did!

‘Lord of the Dance’ is a show that tells it’s story solely through dance. There are no lines or acting involved. I’m going to go out and say this right from the start, this show is one hundred percent a visual show. Sadly you would need some form of vision to really understand this show fully. This is the one main down side, I found out that this show has toured many countries and completely sold out! I would like to think, on knowing how big this show is, they would adapt the show for people with Visual Impairments or someone with no vision. But this I can’t tell you for certain. The only downside of the actual show, I never really understood the story. You could tell there was one, in certain scenes like the fighting scenes for example. But apart for that I didn’t really get the story at all.

Moving on the positives, you could immediately tell the high level of dancing standard that is required of all the dancers in the show, because all were absolutely amazing! You could tell it took years of practice and it definitely showed. The high level of visuals were brilliant! They used two LED screens, one giant screen at the back of the stage and one more towards the front, which was used as a platform which the dancers could dance on. The high definition animations were breathtaking, and really made the show more beautiful.

Michael Flately who is the Creator, Producer and Choreographer, is world famous for his energetic and fast dancing and his shows are always sell outs world wide. I’m going to be honest and say that until now, I have never heard of him before. Now I have become a massive fan and I hope I get to see another one of his shows again. When I researched the show I found an interview that he done a few years ago and he said something that completely sums up the point I’m trying to make very nicely, he said: “I wanted to try and make tap dancing popular again!” and he has certainly done that.

If you have some free time go and see this show you will not be disappointed! For all information on the show and to buy tickets – Click Here.

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic

Trailer Below:

Sister Act!

Hi all,

Coming to you with yet another review. Last night, I went to go see ‘Sister Act’ at The Regent Theatre in Ipswich. I arrived around half an hour before the show was due to start, which is normally plenty of time. But sadly not on this occasion. When I arrived at the box office to collect my ticket, the box office staff originally thought I had already picked up my tickets according to their paper work. I explained that I had not done so, so they spent a little time trying to find them. Whist this was going on the the main entrance to the theatre was already starting to fill.

This was opening night, so it was kind of expected. However, once I got my ticket, the crowd got to the point where you could blearily move. This for me is never good, as I find a get very disorientated. I would have liked the theatre as they knew I was coming to maybe notice I was struggling and take me aside so I was out of the massive crowd of people. Whilst waiting for the doors to open, so that we could go to our seats, it was announced that the show was going to be delayed by twenty minutes due to technical problems. So I began to feel slightly more stressed than I already was somewhat feeling. In the end, overall the show didn’t start until thirty minutes after the original time.

The show ‘Sister Act’ starred Alexandra Burke famous for winning the UK singing contest ‘The X Factor’ in 2008. Deloris Van Cartier (played by Alexandra Burke) a disco diva’s life takes a turn for the worst as she witnesses a murder. She goes to the police, and for her own protection they send her into hiding at a Convent. The last place where anyone will think to look. The first act, I felt was slow, and I struggled to get into it. The second act was more up beat and therefore I enjoyed it more than the first. Alexandra’s singing was brilliant, and you could see why she won the singing contest. However, you could also see that acting for her is somewhat of a new thing. I think after a few performances she would get into her stride within the role.

Overall, it was a good night out. I think more organisation in terms of crowd control at the beginning of the show could have been a lot better. I think for an  opening night of a show, could have gone a little better. If you want a good night out and some fun, then go and see this show, but I don’t think it is a must see. I came away from the theatre slightly disappointed if I’m completely honest. But I guess, they can’t go all completely to plan can they.  

Until Next Time

The VI Critic

Trailer:

Footloose – The Musical

Hi,

This week, I got the chance to see Footloose – The Musical starring Gareth Gates, Maureen Nolan and making her professional debut Hannah Price. Footloose is the story of Renn, who years after his father left his mother and him to fend for themselves they decide to leave the American city of Chicago and move to a small town called Bomont. Where there after a tragic death of four young teenagers have made it illegal to dance.

So, Renn along with his friends decide to change the law, so they can have a end of school year dance. The staging, lighting, music and vocals were excellent! You feel like you had a real connection to the story.

The theatre this time, was a lot bigger in terms of space, so was not very difficult to get around. I noticed whilst walking around that they had a few extra spaces for wheelchair users which was a nice thing to see. When I arrived, I was greeted by the manager who organises the press tickets at the theatre, he was really polite and friendly, and it felt like he was happy to have me there which is something I always like to experience when I arrive.

The service at the theatre was of a professional standard and I was sure that if I asked for help from a member of staff they would have been more than happy to. On this particular visit, I didn’t have a need to, but it was nice to know that the option was there. The only downside I would have with this particular theatre, is that there was not a massive choice in terms of food and drink. You had the usual alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, chocolate/sweets and crips (chips if you live over the pond). I felt there was very little choice in terms of options. Maybe the theatre would consider having some type of hot food available?  

Overall, it was a very good and enjoyable evening. Would I go and see the show again yes, would I rush to go see it…I’m not sure. I’m not saying the show was at all terrible because it honestly wasn’t, I just feel that maybe certain parts of extra things that come with going to the theatre could have maybe been a little better.

Until Next Time,

The VI Critic

(Please note: Trailer is from 2011 and not the current cast!)

Introduction & Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Hi! 

Well, I guess what first needs to be said is. Welcome to The VI Critic! I will be posting reviews from shows I go and see from local theatre to London’s West End! But first I need to address the elephant in the room. As many of you can see from the title and bio of this blog is that I am visually impaired. I have a condition call Retinopathy of Prematurity or more commonly know as ROP. In basic simple terms, I have no vision in my right eye at all, and very little vision in my left. I have been like it all my life, but never get it in my way! This post is probably going to be a little extra long, so you have been warned. But it will not be this long normally!

I’ve always had a love for musical theatre, so I thought I would start reviewing shows, but with a slight twist. So I guess I’d better get on with reviewing my first ever show on this blog. 

I recently got the chance to go and see ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ a show adaption from the 1968 film. Featuring TV presenter and comedian Jason Manford as Professor Potts and TV actress Michelle Collins as The Baroness of Vulgaria, at The Cliffs Pavilion Palace in Southend. This particular performance was not a Audio Described performance, but it did not take away the brilliance and splendor of the whole show. 

I found the first half of the show to flyby like there was no tomorrow, and I thought at the time I might have been too quick? But looking back on it, the length of the first half was probably the right amount of time. The transitions from one scene to another to be a little too quick. As a audience member I like transitions from scene to scene to be a least a minute or to so you can take in what you’ve just seen and understand the story. The Child Catcher played by Martin Kemp I thought had very little to do with story and only appeared three times throughout the whole show, which I felt was a real shame, but played the role very well. I feel they could have done a lot more with this character. But I got goose bumps every time he came on stage.

The second half of the show was a little longer and was I felt at the right tempo. There were some scenes that were not in the film which I didn’t understand and made very little sense. For example, there is this one particular scene where at the King’s birthday party his wife and Queen of Vulgaria surprises him with a group of Mexican dancers in bright multicoloured costumes as the party entertainment. I found this very confusing and very hard to understand why they would put this type of scene in the show. 

All the acting by the whole cast I found outstanding, but the two child actors who played Jeremy and Jemima Potts were incredible!! The actress who played Jemima, I read later in programme that this show was her first professional performance. I remember going home thinking: “how has this girl not been seen I picked up sooner!” The vocal performances of Jason and Michelle was exceptional especially Michelle’s performance. The lighting and sound throughout the show fitted every single scene and did not look wrong in anyway, shape or form. 

Anyone who is looking or is thinking of going to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I would highly recommend it, you will certainly get your tickets worth out of it.

Coming from a more Visually Impaired angle, the staff were really help in find me to my seat, they make sure I did have to climb so many stairs, they came to me during the interval and asked if I needed any help, support or if I needed anything. But even better, I got to meet some members of the cast at the end of the show at the stage door. They were all very friendly and took there time with me and didn’t rush me. They made me feel that they wanted me there and I did not rush of and told me that they need to go. They signed my programme and took photos with, and generally made me feel liked a VIP! Would recommend the theatre and looking forward to see future productions there.

Please feel free to leave comments on what you thought of this first post. I would be interested to read the feedback everyone has. Until next time! 

The VI Critic   

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