access review, Accessible London, Cabaret, Kit Kat Club, London, Playhouse, theatre, West End, wheelchair access
It was a mission to get access tickets to Cabaret at the Playhouse but wow was it ever worth the stress! If Jessie Buckley doesn’t get an Olivier out of this I will eat my suspender belt. But onto the important stuff – the access!
Ticket buying I’ve covered here – the best advice I can give if the access phone line still doesn’t work is to email the access champion and explain your issue. Unfortunately it will still involve a phone call to purchase the tickets, which makes it not fully accessible for all patrons.
For this event, the Playhouse has been fully transformed into the inter-war Kit Kat Club. This means atmosphere – decor, musicians, dancers all in an already crowded foyer and bar area and honestly it was slightly overwhelming. If you’re prone to sensory overload, I would recommend getting to your seat as quickly as possible and staying in the theatre area. I’ve put some content warnings in too this time due to the nature of the show, they’re at the bottom in text you have to highlight to view (I am still a rookie at WP formatting, sorry!) – if you’re using a screen reader and don’t want any spoilers then stop when it gets to the content warning announcement!
There is a wheelchair accessible entrance further along from the main entrance outside. You will have to get the attention of a staff member outside to radio in for someone to open the door. The door opens into the vestibule between the foyer and the seats, and such an effort has been made to evoke Weimar decadence that even that little entrance has been covered in gold fabric!
“Unfortunately”, the only wheelchair accessible spaces at the fully-revamped Playhouse-turned-KKC are in the front two rows of the table seats, normally the priciest seats in the house. This puts access patrons in touching distance of the actors in some scenes, for a heavily discounted price. What a shame! We were allocated a lovely member of staff, who escorted me to and from the bar and toilet, and even brought us some complimentary bottles of water in case we got too hot watching the rather racy performance. Having spoken to other wheelchair-using pals who’ve been, advice is to stay in your own wheelchair if you can because the provided seats are not very comfortable (they will remove a chair for you). If you have issues being around food, be aware that some ticket options for table seats include a meal served before the show and during the interval so people around you may be eating. Also a rather important note – there is a hard rule on leaving and re-entering for the stalls area, because the aisles are frequently used by cast members during the performance. Our access host told us that there would be exceptions made for health & disability reasons but there would still be times when it wouldn’t be possible to leave and come back straight away. If you have concerns about this, I would talk to someone at the Playhouse before you book a ticket.
I can’t complain about the size of the wheelchair accessible toilet here (no having to pee with my feet resting on my wheelchair!), and this one at least had a door that opens outwards, but I’m yet to find a West End theatre that has enough space in there for a patron to side-transfer. However, the red emergency cord reached the floor, and our lovely access host waited outside to escort me back to my seat – a necessity because as I mentioned before, the foyer/bar area gets very very busy and being below eye level I would have had to start ramming ankles to get anywhere without him clearing a path!
CONTENT WARNINGS (highlight below to view, they’re written in white)
It’s Cabaret turned up to 11 – I’ve seen a few productions of it before (including the rather sanitised version my high school put on) but where most have been highly suggestive, this was overtly sexual. Aside from that, there are multiple instances of antisemitism (unavoidable without cutting major plot lines), references to abortion, and an incidence of domestic violence. There is also one “jump scare” in the form of an unexpected loud bang – ask a host if you want to be prepared for when this happens.