Earlier this year I put a show on at a fringe theatre and I was very proud of a lot of what we achieved. But I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until I started sending out the invites that I realised not everyone I was inviting could come. Like most fringe theatres the theatre we were performing in did not have level access, there was no hearing loop, we did not have the facility to do a captioned or audio described performance. I appreciate that at a fringe theatre there are many restrictions that you have to work with. But I was appalled to realise I was restricting the audience of who was allowed to enjoy my play, or at least see it!
In Like the Clappers we are committed to being openly and freely accessible and it is something that is very important to us. We are making efforts as best we can to ensure that our events are accessible, and we have sometimes failed, but we are working hard to make sure in the future this doesn’t happen. And embarrassingly again, it wasn’t until I was looking for venues to hold events for Like the Clappers that I realised how few theatres are accessible. Some of the big theatres are, or at least have specific accessible seats, but are the rehearsal rooms? And I’m hard pressed to find a fringe theatre that is accessible other than The Ovalhouse. Just think about all the fringe theatres you go to, how many of them are upstairs? (I don’t want to sound ungrateful and thankfully there are some theatres kind enough to put us up including The Young Vic – whom always seem to be leading the way in British theatre practice)
This industry is hard enough, but how it would be possible to be forging a career if most of the output was unavailable to watch is beyond me. In some venues it would be possible to work but then not see or be in the final performances, a lot of places you simply wouldn’t be able to work or see their work. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know I am more likely to support theatres that make work that is accessible. And I know that I never want to put on a show again that has barriers that stop people seeing it.