Browsing the Royal Academy Of Music’s (RAM) 2018-19 schedule of performances, I just have to close out my 2017 blogging by saying how fantastic their production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni was at The Round Chapel, Hackney.
Don Giovanni is one of my favourite opera’s so when I saw that RAM were putting on this performance, I was pretty keen, despite the across-town distance, to go see it, imagining a St John’s Smith Square experience.
I used to love going to St John’s Smith Square (SJSS) in my pre-wheelchair day’s – listening to exhilarating music in an austere church with beautiful candlelit stained glass windows. Sadly, SJSS was not wheelchair accessible for a long time and, now, has only a small lift – too small for my power wheelchair. Do call and check your own wheelchair dimensions, if you’d be interested in going as it really is a fabulous place.
Happily, between the Royal Academy and the Round Chapel, Hackney, the consensus for my wheelchair access was: ‘No problem. Come along.’
So, I did.
And, it was great, even though we were ridiculously late. D had a nightmare getting home from a day he’d spent in Henley and West London to Hackney can be a bitch for traffic.
Knowing we were running late, we were able to call ahead and let RAM staff at the Round Chapel know. We figured that we might see the second half at least. Again, everyone assured us it was ‘no problem’. Love that.
On arrival, we parked right next to the side entrance they guided us to and I was able to roll down our car ramp straight onto the pathway.
People were at the gate to meet and guide us in. The route from entrance to side ramp was a little uneven and gently sloping upwards but all very manageable even for me – the less-than-intrepid wheelchair driver. The ramp to the side entrance was sturdy, sizeable and very easy to get up and down.
From there on, all the floors were level going in and coming out to the same ramp then back to the, conveniently parked, car. Staff accompanied us along the way, making sure it was all good.
Being so late, we were taken via a circuitous backstage route to the bar area where we could hear what was left of the first half before wheeling to our wheelchair space and seat for the remainder of the evening. On leaving, the route back to the ramp was much shorter as we cut across the – now empty – performance area.
Inside, the Round Chapel isn’t quite as pretty and polished as SJSS but it is a magnificent venue to stage something like this – lots of high ceilings, huge spaces and bags of history.
The performance itself was fantastic. Being so familiar with the opera, I was worried I’d be hyper-critical but no cause to be. All the young performers were outstanding; the production, a lot of fun; the orchestra, superb.
Sadly, RAM may not be back at The Round Chapel any time soon as they’ve been touring other venues whilst their central London premises were being refitted and that’s now almost complete. This will be their main base from now on.
Suits me in one way as I am resolved to see much more of RAM in 2018 and their central London home is a much easier, if less fun, location for me to get to.
As for the Round Chapel, I’d happily go back but it is a bit too tricky, in route not distance, for me to get to easily. If it is more local to you, as a wheelchair user, have no worries about attending any of their varied schedule of events upcoming.