The Dress Circle is accessible. Oh yes it is!

The auditorium, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

This time last year we were booked into the Dress Circle at York Theatre Royal but the lift had broken down so they accommodated us in the stalls. Assuming that the same thing couldn’t happen to us again, we booked the Dress Circle this year and… it was great! The Theatre Royal had a revamp a couple of years ago and it is now much more accessible with automatically opening doors, much more space generally in the foyer and of course, the lift! It was one of those cunning ones with doors on different sides so you didn’t have to back out: brilliant! You get a good view with plenty of space and a good solid rail in front of you. There is an accessible loo on the ground floor and the Dress Circle level and a bar at each level too. All the staff are really welcoming and helpful.

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

This was our annual trip to see the pantomime and it was Berwick Kaler’s final pantomime after being the Dame at York Theatre Royal for 40 years. It was our 27th consecutive visit to see the usual mayhem. I won’t give away the plot (!) but safe to say there were plenty of laughs and audience participation, all the usual main players and a very professional supporting cast. I don’t know what the theatre will do in future years, as the panto is such a moneyspinner for them but it’ll be interesting to see how they go on.

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

See my previous reviews of the renovated Theatre Royal.

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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!

Refurbished York Theatre Royal!

Our annual trip to the panto at York Theatre Royal was extra interesting as this was our first visit since the theatre reopened after its £6 million refurbishment.

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

It now incorporates what was an open-air colonnade (previously full of fag-ends and pigeon poo!), now glassed in and turned into a bar/café area and expanded box office and all beautifully accessible with automatic doors.

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

There is also a lift up to the Dress Circle, and there are wheelchair spaces both there and in the stalls. There are several rows at the front of the stalls where there are no steps; the rest of the stalls have been raked. We were in row C and it only really occurred to us once we were seated that there wasn’t much room for people to get past to their seats further along. People were very accommodating and either went round a different way or stepped over but we realised that if you were in row B, you wouldn’t have this issue as there is no seat in front of the end seat – we shall have to book very early next year to get the perfect seat!

Bar area, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)
Bar area, Theatre Royal (dezeen.com)

I was able to leave my scooter over by the wall – the nearby steward was quite happy for us to leave it there as it was not in anyone’s way.

I think generally the alterations are for the better – there is so much more space: it used to be quite a crush in the foyer before a performance.

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

The accessible loos (at ground at Dress Circle level) are new and good and the stewards all very friendly and helpful. As before, they provide booster seats for small children, have audio-described and BSL interpreted performances and the ice-creams at the interval are fabulous!

As for the panto – it’s a bit of institution and people seem to love it or hate it! We’ve been every year for the past 25, sometimes with members of my family who loved it too – you don’t need to be local to enjoy it. They don’t include any smut and the odd political comments are infrequent and mild. There was plenty of opportunity to boo and hiss the baddy and a fair bit of other audience participation.

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

I definitely recommend it and recommend checking out the refurbishment if you have ever visited the theatre and not found it very user-friendly – it’s so much more accessible now!