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25th November, 2021

“A Musical London Weekend” Georgina’s blog

What’s better than one show in London? Three shows in a city renowned for its West End shows. Now I am a fairly avid theatre goer, it’s one of my favourite places to be sat in a theatre fully immersed in a show. As someone who use to perform on stage (amateur for 13 years pre wheelchair) the theatres hold a huge part of my heart and is therefore, a happy place of mine.

During lockdown, many events got rescheduled including these three shows which then just happened to be moved to all into the same weekend so we just went with it and made the most out of our theatre weekend! First up was one of the new musicals, Mary Poppins. Quite possibly the best show to kick off our opening night in London. It was “practically perfect in every way”! This musical took place at the Prince Edward Theatre and for that extra special feeling, we had our own box! Which also made accessibility easy peasy. We were immediately met by a member of staff who escorted us to the accessible toilets instead the main foyer and then back out round to the accessibility door which I drove through, immediately turned right and was in the box. Could even stay in my chair to watch the show. I felt so fancy having our private box, especially when the cast bowed to us at the end of the show. This show was truly incredible and highly nostalgic, I couldn’t stop smiling throughout.

However, there were no taxis available at the end of the night due to the busyness of Soho and no accessible tube stations so we had to walk/wheel back to the hotel which wasn’t ideal but hey, at least it was a nice London night for it! One thing I hadn’t experienced yet with my Whill is busy crowds and wow, did London test my driving skills and the response of my chair. Using the Whill app on my phone I switched the chair from normal to sport mode so that my controls were more reactive for manoeuvring through the crowds and crossing roads at speed without any delay. I did spend a lot of time looking down through Soho so I didn’t run over anyones toes and I’m pleased to say I didn’t! The bars had spilled out on the paths and streets which didn’t leave a whole lot of room for anybody getting through, never mind me in my chair. There’s nothing like diving (or driving) straight into the deep end and testing your power chair skills in London crowds.

Show two was at the iconic Palladium Theatre which did not disappoint on living up to expectations, it’s gorgeous! Now, I’m quite aware that not many people will know who this artist is but Paul Heaton has always been a name in my household. Me and my sister were brought up on the music of The Housemartins, The Beautiful South and then Paul Heaton and Jaqui Abbott (who unfortunately was too ill to perform that night). Paul created an electric atmosphere inside the Palladium and after seeing him perform in other venues, this one was by far my favourite. Again, the staff here at this theatre were brilliant and I couldn’t fault the accessibility.

As this was an evening performance, we decided to go to Oxford Street during the day and it was insanely busy. We started off at the classic Hamley’s store where the staff allowed us to use the staff elevator due to the busyness of the public elevators which we were extremely grateful for and it allowed us to get about so much quicker without waiting long lengths of time. Then we headed out to the high streets which probably wasn’t the best idea… if you’re a wheelchair user you know what I’m talking about when I say that shops are not the best for accessibility and you often feel like you’re going through a forest of clothes. Me and my sister decided to go into a clothes shop called Bershka and within 5 minutes of being in there, a heavy metal clothing rail knocked over hitting me on the head. Not ideal. So we grabbed a taxi, (black cabs are wheelchair accessible and all have ramps!) and headed to our go to restaurant in London, Bar & Block, grabbed some food and then went to the theatre for an incredible performance which totally made up for the bump to the head!

Final performance of the weekend was nothing short of MAGICAL. Another new musical to come to the West End and following the Disney theme, Frozen. The whole road had been closed off to allow the audience to arrive to see the new show and then for us to be on row c of the stalls just felt a surreal experience. It went above and beyond any expectations we had, it was so powerful and moving. Truly beautiful, it couldn’t have been better. I thoroughly loved every minute of every performance from this weekend, we have truly been spoilt with talent and I’m in awe of every single person whose work goes into these shows. Staff at the Theatre Royal on the West End for Frozen were brilliant. Bonus perk was being shown and escorted to our seats by one of the red coat members of staff which was pretty cool (pun not intended). I transferred to a theatre seat for this show and at the Palladium too and another amazing additional feature of the Whill that came in handy was being able to lock my chair again from the app on my phone. It added a sense of security and peace of mind whilst watching the shows knowing my chair was safe and not going anywhere. All theatres attended in this weekend had great accessibility and the friendliest of staff who couldn’t have been more helpful.

As this was our last day in the capital we had a stroll through Covent Gardens, I always forget how much cobbles make the wheelchair shake, which was just round the corner from Frozen and then we went to China Town for a celebratory meal to finish on a high! The chosen restaurant was the Golden Phoenix which we had visited once before and it’s one I’d definitely recommend as the food is delicious and it has good accessibility too. The staff are so polite and will open and hold all doors for you.

We couldn’t have finished the weekend off any better, if we ignore the train problems from assistance not showing up when we arrived at King’s Cross station to the train being delayed on the way back that both got thankfully sorted, it gave us more time to just relax in the bar and reminisce on the shows we’ve just seen. We may have missed the West End and musicals but we certainly made up for it and more in this weekend! Now onto the next show, whatever that may be! Perhaps a Christmas pantomime?

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