Norwich Playhouse is one of my favourite places, and has been for a few years now. I properly discovered this arty venue while I was studying my MA at Norwich University of the Arts, which main building is situated just opposite. This cosy, friendly, quirky bar and theatre became my second home. The relaxing atmosphere perfect for writing essays, reading books, chatting on lunch breaks and doing the crossword. On the bar there was always a stack of photocopied crosswords from the days newspaper, ready for a little competition with friends or a quiet cuppa and crossword before lectures.
I have since visited Norwich Playhouse many times, to meet friends, celebrate birthdays, relax in the lovely riverside garden (blankets and scarfs provided at the bar!) and play games. Yes play games! Norwich Playhouse have a stash of board games, playing cards, dominoes and more that you can play with friends over a warm brew or a couple of glasses of wine. I’ve also attended multiple shows in the adjoined theatre, many of which were stand up comedy, the most recent being Irish comedian David O’Doherty.
To gain access to the auditorium from the foyer and box office (little desk) is a flight of stairs. How do I mount these I hear you say, well Norwich Playhouse has a marvellous invention called a platform stairlift! A bit like a stairlift for wheels. This gadget although not the most pretty contraption is permanently attached to a wall beside the stairs. Folded up when not in use it is out of the way for other customers. When required, with the touch of a button the lift unfolds itself revealing a platform for me to drive onto. Then slowly, VERY SLOWLY, the lift glides (creaks) and takes me to the top of the stairs. Not the most glamorous of entrances, people standing and waiting for me to be off as they aren’t allowed to climb the stairs while I am on my slow, creaky magic carpet. But without this lift I wouldn’t be able to attend any shows at Norwich Playhouse.
Although not the most attractive feature, this lift is a fairly easy adaption (compared to knocking down walls and adding lifts etc) that could and should be installed much more than it is, on a reasonably low budget many venues could improve their disabled access just by considering this magic carpet lift!
A small intimate theatre, the wheelchair access seats are located on the balcony to the left of the auditorium. A row of 8 seats 3 of which are removable (brilliant, venues need to take note of this!) to allow for a wheelchair user to drive straight into viewing position. My only slight niggle with this seating set up is because you are on a balcony which runs the length of the theatre, front to back, to allow easy viewing you are seated in a type of queuing position, one behind another, as if waiting in line, rather than beside your friends in a row. You have a great view, and it is brilliantly accessible, however not very sociable. You can’t see each other’s faces, share a joke during the show (unless you tap them on the back and they turn around). I know my PA’s are always a little concerned they won’t know if I need anything, as I can’t exactly shout during the show without the threat of being picked on or be seen as a heckler! And I can’t reach over to tap them on the back, so because they are seated in front of me they often turn around and glance at me grinning over their shoulder waiting for the nod that I’m ok.
I’ve used two of the three accessible toilets at Norwich Playhouse. One situated beside the auditorium and the other in an extension just outside the patio doors of the bar. Neither enormous or anything to get excited about (as you know accessible loos do often excite me!) but both adequate for my needs. I aim to blog about these in more details in the future. I’m informed there is also another accessible toilet backstage, however me just being a mere audience member and tea drinker I’m yet to experience this!
So back to my recent visit of the lovely Norwich Playhouse, this time myself and a few friends were here to see David O’Doherty. It’s my third experience of a DOD show (excluding Latitude Festival) and I always look forward to them and end up crying with laughter.
Plodding around the stage in t-shirt, cap and his cycling trousers (with padded bum and crotch), O’Doherty ponders the everyday issues which irk and irritate us all. Sharp wit and childlike manner he complains about the mundane things we can all relate to… employment, know it all relatives that achieve everything, politicians, and the random items he purchases for unknown reasons from Aldi (he has a leaf blower but no garden!).
An endearing and likeable guy, this show, like most of his others, was like a good ol’ rant with a friend, discussing serious topics in a jovial way (you may as well laugh about these things or you’ll end up going mad), ultimately trying to fix the world and find happiness.
Dispersed between the ramblings were catchy, gleeful songs played on his famous beloved retro battery operated keyboard. (My PA who had never seen DOD before said to me in the interval that when she saw him walk on stage with his mini keyboard she was wondering what I had brought her to see, then being pleasantly surprised and enjoying the show much more than she expected.) These quirky, upbeat songs were about, I don’t really know, not much at all at guess (celebrities doing mundane things, working in telemarketing, and a pleasurable cyclist) but somehow they are extremely poignant.
David O’Doherty ended with an encore singing one of my favourite tunes of his ‘Grand Designs’. If you haven’t heard it, or for some crazy reason don’t know who DOD is, then I suggest you head to YouTube now!
The most genial comedian I think I’ve ever met, and just a nice guy, after his shows David O’Doherty hangs around in the foyer to have a chat with his audience and let them capture selfies with him to remember their evening. He then hangs out in Norwich Playhouse bar for a couple of after show drinks.
Not partaking in a selfie or drink this time I head to my accessible vehicle parked right outside the door in one of the two Blue Badge parking spots.
There’s nothing like a good laugh to heighten your mood and leave you feeling relaxed. They say laughter is the best medicine, and I don’t think they are far wrong.