A night at the opera

How easy is it for theatregoers to attend a stage performance in comfort? DEBORAH LOUW buys a ticket

An evening at the theatre – watching a musical, a stage play or a symphony concert – is something that most of us enjoy. A live performance is really hard to beat, no matter how good the quality of your DVD player at home.

But if you have a disability, how easy is it to access a theatre, its foyer, bar area, parking and toilets? As things currently stand in South Africa, facilities vary widely. These are some of the disability-friendly spaces:

Artscape, Cape Town

There is provision for two wheelchairs at each of the Artscape venues. Lifts are available to take patrons from the ground-floor foyer to the upstairs bars and upper levels of the auditorium. Management asks, though, that when you book, you let them know in advance what your particular requirements are. The CEO of Artscape Marlene le Roux is a member of the Presidential Working Group looking at disability issues, so we can expect more disability-focused initiatives in the future.

Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban

One of the most user-friendly venues, it has specific seats that can be reserved through Computicket for patrons wishing to remain in their wheelchairs. They are located in the back row of the auditorium, close to the entrance doors (no stairs). The theatre’s foyer and bar area, in addition to toilets for patrons in wheelchairs, are all easily accessible with no stairs.

Teatro at Montecasino, Gauteng

Wheelchair access can be arranged; contact management on 011 510 7472 Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm to arrange wheelchair access. Certain aisle seats are available in the stalls for patrons who are able to transfer from a chair into an aisle seat. (Ushers will safely store the chair until the end of the performance.)

The Fugard Theatre, Cape Town

Disabled facilities include special parking and toilet facilities.

The Joburg Theatre (formerly the Civic), Johannesburg

Good facilities are available for people with a disability – including toilets, a ramp and provision for wheelchairs in all of the venues. Service animals are also welcome.

The Baxter, Cape Town

Wheelchair positions are located in the Theatre (stalls), Concert Hall and Golden Arrow Studio Theatre. When booking through Computicket, request a wheelchair space. Accessible toilets are located in the public toilets in the main foyer. A lift for wheelchairs in the main foyer allows access to the restaurant. Wheelchair designated parking is located at two of its entrances. (Front of House Manager: 021 680 3967.)

We look forward to the day when all performance spaces cater for people with disabilities – when going to the theatre will be enjoyable (and hassle-free) for everyone.

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