Accessible London theatre? / 1 March 2015
Seeing the 25th February news item on Dao, the first thing that struck me was a sense of excitement. The promotional video showed prominent images of Warhorse - actually showing at the New London Theatre. My own experience of just that, was not the best. Maybe things have improved?
A chaos of milling customers had made it difficult to find out exactly how I was to gain access to the New London Theatre. Without ambulant help I might not have discovered that wheelchair access was around the side, or was it the back? I wasn't thrilled to be informed that the first part of my journey would take place in the props lift.
From there I was escorted down an extremely narrow corridor with doors leading off it, I think they were dressing rooms. The next lift was tiny, it required serious manhandling to get my smaller than average size manual chair in - with me in it and feeling less like a theatre goer, more like a shipment.
Inside the entrance to the auditorium they had made it possible to just about accommodate two wheelchair guests; one in front of the other and rather detached from the rest of the audience. For anything less than Warhorse, I might not have stayed.
Accessible London theatre? Tell me this has changed; tell me there are improvements to universal access.
And Covent Garden? Yes the Royal Opera House was accessible, and yes I could sit together with a party of people, but guess what? I thought it would be fine to roll there from Waterloo station, it's a short journey and should have been easy. A lack of matching dropped curbs saw me rolling the streets seeking access to pavements and risking life and limb as well as receiving abuse from impatient taxi drivers.
I enquired at ROH about their policy towards approach access and was informed that I should contact the appropriate London Authority. I tried, I really tried to make the appropriate borough understand the need for matching dropped curbs and the danger of not enabling a person to get back on to the pavement. They insisted that they had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
Accessible London Theatre? Tell me London understands access; tell me there are improvements to universal access.