Can beanstalks be accessible? Oh, yes, they can!

Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

Sorry, couldn’t resist! This was our 26th consecutive Theatre Royal pantomime and it’s as good as ever. It happened to be Jack and the Beanstalk, but the title (and plot, such as it is!) are irrelevant – it’s always mayhem!

The auditorium, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
The auditorium, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

This was the first time I had visited the theatre using my powerchair – last year I used my scooter and sat in a theatre seat. This year I stayed in my powerchair. We had booked seats in the Dress Circle but during the afternoon of the day of our visit, we got a phone call to say that their lift was broken so we would have to be either accommodated in the stalls, choose to go on a different night or be refunded. This was disappointing but as we were all geared up to going to the theatre that evening, we didn’t want to cancel and there is no way we would have got suitable seats for another performance before Christmas so we went anyway.

They told us to make ourselves known to a steward once we got there and they would sort us out. The first steward we spoke to didn’t seem to understand what the issue was but then we spoke to Rita (who’s been there over 40 years!) who was really helpful. She had been told to give us a programme free but as we’d already bought one, she went off and got us a refund! I sat next to the end of a row with Pete in a chair next to me. The visibility wasn’t perfect: you couldn’t quite see the very left hand side of the stage but it wasn’t a major problem as most of the action is of course centre stage. When it came to the interval, Rita let us off paying for our ice creams. Brilliant PR from the Theatre Royal! We might even go again…

Foyer, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
Foyer, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

If you’re familiar with the theatre, but haven’t visited since they refurbished it, I would recommend taking a look as it is so much more accessible than it was. There is now a bar at ground floor level and a lift that takes you up just a few steps to the bar that was there before and, of course when it’s working, a lift that takes you up to the Dress Circle. For more details and lots of photos, see my review from last year.

Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

You don’t have to be a local to enjoy the panto at the Theatre Royal and there was plenty of audience participation, particularly booing and hissing the baddie and lots of applause for Berwick Kaler, back from major heart surgery and Martin Barrass, recovered from a very serious motorbike accident. They have booster seats for people who need them and there are British Sign Language interpreted performances, audio described and subtitled performances.

Performances continue until 3rd February. I don’t know about the availability of wheelchair spaces – it’s worth phoning up to discuss what you want. Hopefully they’ll get that lift fixed soon!

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Goday, My Lord Sire Christemas

York Waits

Definitely feeling Christmassy now, thanks to The York Waits! There is somehow something very festive about crumhorns, shawms, sackbuts and rebecs!

York Waits
York Waits

Yes, we’ve been to the National Centre for Early Music and actually seen some early music for once – usually we see what I suppose you’d call World Music and occasionally the two coincide, but this was very definitely English Early Music, from the 15th to 17th century. The programme included some familiar pieces, such as Past 3 o’clock, God rest you, merry gentlemen, The Coventry Carol and an encore that was a storming rendition of Gaudete – who knew mediaeval music could be so funky? – and some lovely songs and tunes that were new to me, all with a Christmas or Wintery theme.

The five versatile musicians each play a number of instruments that also included harp, recorder, tabor pipe and bagpipes – nothing like Scottish pipes, but more like the Spanish gaita or Breton pipes. They were accompanied by the splendid Deborah Catterall on vocals and sometimes recorder.

The NCEM was packed and extra-atmospheric as they had lots of candles going, plus there were mince pies on offer along with the other refreshments. (I heroically resisted!)

The York Waits have been going since the 1970s, playing around the UK and abroad on period instruments, including at the Sheriff’s Riding, when the company the Sheriff of York around the city while he reads a proclamation at various locations allowing “whores, thieves, dice players and other unthrifty folk” into the city for the 12 days of Christmas.

As ever, the NCEM is wonderfully accessible, in fact there were two other wheelchair users there apart from myself. Word has obviously got around!

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

Around this time last year, we went to see Joglaresa at the NCEM. They were there again this year but on a day when we couldn’t go and, having seen them before, we thought we’d give this a go instead and I’m so glad we did!