Friday, 1 June 2012

Theatre review by Vidar Hjardeng - I Dreamed A Dream

Review of the audio-described performance of I Dreamed A Dream on the afternoon of Wednesday 30 May 2012 at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Whether you are a fan of ITV’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ or not, I suspect that you may have heard of Susan Boyle who, perhaps against the odds, shot to instant stardom having amazed the judging panel, studio audience and wider voting viewing public alike, with her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from Les Miserables.  Only 3 years after her TV talent show success there is now a musical about Susan Boyle, charting not only her meteoric rise to celebrity status but also her life in Scotland leading up to the extraordinary success of the 47 year old singer. Co-scripted by Elaine C Smith and Alan McHugh, this is a sympathetic account of Susan’s family life, time at school etc. in which the role of Susan is engagingly played by Elaine C Smith herself - probably best known as Mary, the long-suffering wife of Rab C Nesbitt.  

Arriving at the Hippodrome for the 2 pm audio-described mid-week matinee performance on 30 May, we fellow visually impaired patrons and those accompanying us, were met by the Hippodrome’s Rachel Sharpe and audio-describer Jonathan Nash who, took us behind the scenes and onto the stage for the 1 pm touch tour.  Although relatively plain, the set was very effective with a bar area made up of TV screens, on which stood a karaoke machine.  We were also shown a bank of old and modern, different sized TV screens, which filled the back of the stage, onto which a whole range of images were projected throughout the show relating to the different times, locations and experiences in Susan’s life … that’s where audio description is so valuable as I for one, would never have known about the monitors or indeed the different locations displayed. Standing on the black shiny floor of the stage were five wooden chests, which were used to create either a platform or pieces of furniture throughout the show, and in which a number of the props and costumes were stored.  As we were waiting to go on stage to get a feel for the set, as the cast finished their warm-up, a number of the props were brought out for our inspection, including Susan’s first communion veil and the Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan masks.  We were also told that the only piece of furniture that would be wheeled on, was a simple sofa used when the action took place in Susan’s home.

Equipped with our headsets we took our seats in a packed auditorium 15 minutes before curtain up to hear Jonathan’s informative introductory notes giving details of the cast, characters and their costumes and reminding us of the set.  During the show we heard a number of the songs from Susan’s bestselling albums, and of course the real bonus was that Susan herself appeared on stage after the curtain call, to sing a couple of songs including ‘her’ I Dreamed a Dream .. to a rapturous ovation.

The next audio described performance at the Birmingham Hippodrome will be Gershwin’s famous Porgy and Bess on the afternoon of Saturday 9 June and details of how to book tickets, headsets and places on the touch tour can be obtained on 0844338 5000.

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