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Royal Opera House

Royal Opera House London

Royal Opera House, London

I was at the Royal Opera House on Saturday evening seeing a triple bill of dance – Obsidian Tears/The Invitation/Within The Golden Hour.

i was in two minds about going as England were playing their first Euro 2016 match and the Opera House is undergoing development and I’ve received copious emails about difficulties with access and parking but, on balance, I had bought the tickets, in my favourite wheelchair space at the Opera House – in the grand tier –  art won out and off we went.

The roads were, unsurprisingly, clear so we got there with plenty of time to spare but that spare time was chomped up crawling through the volume of Opera House traffic and stress of finding somewhere to unload me safely, with good access.

With minutes to spare, I was able to get out in front of the Opera House and whizz my way across the familiar terrain of manageable slopes and lifts in a timely manner but D had to drive off and park in a nearby car park. He legged it back and made the performance, sweating profusely, with seconds to curtain up.

The triple bill was … mixed. Obsidian Tears, a new work by Wayne Macgregor, was good but not as great as I’d hoped. The Invitation, whilst beautifully performed, just wasn’t the kind of work I like – it was a dramatic piece and my preference leans more toward the modern abstract. However, Within The Golden Hour, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, was brilliant and made the evening so worth it – a beautiful confluence of music, set, choreography and performance. Fabulous.

I was, overall, glad we’d decided to go upto this point and then, the roads outside being busy, I volunteered to wheel back to the car park rather than wait for D to circle back to the Opera House in the car. OMG, was that a mistake?

I feel like I never learn. London pavements and roads are like kryptonite to power wheelchairs – bumps, holes, cracks, slopes, uneven camber, hordes of pedestrians, drunken revellers, inconsiderate bikers, screeching cars, grumpy drivers, intolerant taxis. It was hell.

It took 45minutes to wheel a 15minute walk, with me catatonically repeating, ‘I’m so scared.’ I made it, obvs, but it did not leave me in my happy place and was not a good ending to an evening. Experiences like this reinforce too many of the hateful aspects of power wheelchair dependency. On unfamiliar and unfriendly terrain, you just feel so vulnerable as flexible and light, you are not.

Would I do it again? Probably, as its never so bad the second time and I just refuse to let fear constrain me but I shall definitely be trying for drop off and pick up outside the Opera House next time as we both agreed it would’ve been a damn sight quicker. Conquering fear is exhausting, and painfully slow, work for me. I’d really rather not do it when I’m having what’s meant to be a pleasurable night out.

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