* Prices may differ from that shown
A few weeks ago I made a flying trip to Birmingham as my friend won some tickets to see the new Milkshake! Live show which has been specially developed for toddlers and young children, the show features some of my granddaughter's favourite characters so I decided to take her along and have a long overdue catch up with my friend at the same time. The show was being held at The Alexandra Theatre which is located on Station Street in Birmingham City Centre, the theatre is actually a listed building and is rather attractive although its listed status does pose some problems as I will discuss later.
I have visited The Alexandra many times over the years and the experience doesn't really change from one decade to another, it just seems as though the ushers are getting younger! Actually the staff in here are excellent and always have been in my experience, I have never encountered a problem with any member of staff and any query or question has always been accurately and politely answered. This was certainly the case during my latest visit when a problem arose with our tickets which had not been left at the box office as promised, the confirmation of my friend's win was faxed through to them and we were seated with no unnecessary delay as well as an heartfelt apology from the member of staff manning the box office.
The theatre is not a large one, the foyer is rather small and becomes very crowded immediately before any performance. Staff do try to keep some sort of order but it really is a thankless task as the arrangements inside are simply not terribly well thought out; the sweets and popcorn are on one side of the foyer (which is basically a short wide corridor), any merchandise stall is on the other side and the box office stands on the far wall between them. This means that in a very small space there are often up to three overlapping queues which can be a nightmare to pass, apparently the crush during the interval as everyone charges outside for a cigarette is unbelievable although as a non-smoker I have never seen this as I tend to stay in my seat during any break in the performance.
Seating is very comfortable in the theatre, on this most recent visit we sat in the Dress Circle and had a wonderful uninterrupted view of the action on the small stage. The only issue I have with the seating is the fact that there is very, very little leg room in this particular section of the theatre. It's not a problem for me personally as I'm not very tall but I watched a giant of a man trying to get comfortable across the way and in the end he gave up and watched the show with his legs slung into the aisle and his little girl on his shoulders! Not ideal I know and he took it in great spirits, but this just goes someway to point out just what a small theatre this is.
The Alexandra Theatre is not terribly well equipped to deal with disabled visitors and this is down to the fact that it's a listed building, they have simply not been allowed to modernise the interior with lifts or ramps which is understandable but it does pose problems and really makes this lovely little theatre off limits to some people. For a start there are several steps leading to the main entrance, these would obviously make it impossible for a wheelchair user to even enter the building and these steps get so crowded and busy that even walkers who are not completely steady on their feet can feel put off by it. Once you get inside they have an easy access route to the stalls which doesn't require too much walking, but I find the views are much improved by going up to the circle only you have to navigate a steep sweeping staircase to get there. I was feeling fitter than usual at the time so managed the stairs with few problems, perhaps a couple of rests on the way up but then that's hardly the theatre's fault!
There is a kiosk selling popcorn, large bags of sweets and a selection of Pick 'N' Mix. It's one of those places which doesn't go overboard in the choice of snacks but has thought about everyone; the popcorn is available in three flavours, sweets range from gummy pastilles to Giant Buttons and the Pick 'N' Mix is cleverly arranged so that you fill a milkshake size cup full of sweets and pay a set amount rather than having to guess what the weight is going to be while filling a bag. This makes budgeting a little easier I suppose, although the prices are very high (as is the case in all theatres I think) so be prepared to spend more than you thought once you get to the till! The prices are plainly displayed so it's easy to keep track, it's just the generally high prices in theatres and cinemas that make me see red! During the interval ushers come round with delicious small pots of ice cream, considering we were at a kiddies show I think the ice cream sales must have gone through the roof judging by the queue surrounding each usher!
There are also several small bars to purchase soft drinks and alcohol from, I was already armed with cartons of Capri Sun for the children so I cannot comment on this area of the theatre although it did appear popular and a quick glance as I was passing told me that the bars are well stocked.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, despite my misgivings about the accessibility for disabled visitors. Incidentally the Milkshake Live! show is fantastic and I completely recommend it to any of you with toddlers and children who enjoy the Channel 5 programme. Characters included Fifi and Bumble, Peppa Pig, George, Noddy, Tessie Bear, Rupert, Little Princess and two of the Mr Men - my granddaughter sat unmoving for the duration of the show and giggled with delight as Peppa (her favourite person in the whole world I think!) appeared to give a sweet rendition of Any Dream Will Do.
There is nothing I like better than getting a bit dolled up and going to the theatre and seeing a great show. I have done this a few ties this year and as I am in Birmingham for most of my week I usually check what is on around the theatres here. The main theatre by me is the Alexandra because it is central in town and right next to all of the public transport links. I am going to tell you all in this review exactly what this theatre is like and why I think it is a great place to go to see all your theatrical things (when there is something decent on of course).
The Alexandra Theatre:
Birmingham has quite a few places where you can see theatre, plays and live music. The Alexandra is one of the smaller theatres and specifies not just in theatre but you will often find comedians, musical nights out and then also some of the biggest names in television can stop by. Of course it is purely just luck what you do get to see but it is usually things that are touring around the UK at the moment so we have just had Chicago and in a couple of weeks we have puppetry of the Penis and also Russell Brand.
Where to go:
So you are in Birmingham and you have no idea where the Alexandra is. It is quite hard to find so here is the address;
You can also go to www.ents24.com where you will be able to find information about what is on and also you can buy tickets.
One thing I can say about this theatre is that it does have the perfect location. It is located on the Queensway road which is very busy but it is easy to get to and easy to cross over everywhere where you are. It is conveniently a two minute walk away from the city centre so you can go for something nice to eat before or after the show or something to drink and you are in close distance to get there in time. It is also very close to the Mailbox which is a lovely and lively place to go at any point in the day.
Public transport is rife in the city centre and the Alexandra theatre is a five minute walk away from New Street train station and then just a few minutes from all of the bus routes. The metro and Snow Hill station is about a twenty minute walk so everything is pretty close and you should not have any problem with catching them as even the later shows will still let you out in time to make your journey home.
At first it seemed like I would get lost finding the theatre but when you know where it is you cannot get lost. Everything is signposted everywhere and although it seems like it is well out of the city centre it really isnt.
From outside the theatre does not actually look much. It is a square building with Alexandra Theatre in huge bold pale letters at the top. It is a dark building apart from the posters (which are huge) of whatever is playing there at the moment and sometimes it will show you forthcoming events. It does not look a big building from the outside and it is situated on a main road so I cannot say it looks great from the outside, it is when you get inside that you feel a bit better about the place.
The Entrance Area;
When you walk into the theatre the first thing I think is how small it all is. You can see stairs to your left which lead you up to the seating and then you will see in front of you and sort of to your right you will see the bar area where you can go and get some pre-performance drinks. The decoration is very red and bold and exactly the type of thing you expect to see in a theatre. You will also see as you walk in the door a small desk which is where you can buy tickets from if you prefer not to do it online. There is also a small desk which is where you can get information from.
When you are actually viewing a performance you will see that on your left by the stairs there will be a desk which sells programmes and then your usual memorabilia to do with the show such as key rings and T-shirts.
So you have actually found your way here and now you are ready to view the performance. After you have had somebody check your tickets you will make your way to the actual theatre. When you get to the theatre I think you may be shocked at how small it is as I know I certainly was. After being to huge rooms this one has a sort of cosy feel to it. The seats are small and not that comfortable but as they are slightly staggered in a slope I have never had any problems seeing the stage. There are hundreds of seats and you have the stalls and the circle so similar to any other theatre.
The stage is not that big but if you look around you will see that there are no poles or anything like that so you should have no problem viewing the stage. I hate it when you get to some theatres and seats have restricted viewing but here I couldnt see anything that would cause a problem. Now I have sat at the front and at the back of this theatre and because it is quiet small you get a good view from wherever you are. As like other theatres you will see huge red curtains to cover the stage area when it is not in use and the orchestra are situated just before the stage.
Prices at this theatre are absolutely great with the most expensive being about £32 and this is right at the front of the stage. Me and my sister Sam sat here for Rocky Horror which was fantastic. Seats do go down though to almost £10 if you are at the back. All tickets are reasonably priced in my opinion wherever you sit as the Alexandra is quite fair with its charges.
Buying drinks is actually quite expensive (in my cheap still in student mode opinion). We bought a beer and an archers and lemonade which came to just under £8. The other thing is that ice-creams are sold at the interval and these are under £2 each but it does depend on what you go for. All in all though I think it is quite a cheap theatre in terms of prices as it is very fair with everything.
I love the staff here because they are very efficient at their jobs and genuinely want everybody to have a great time with no interruptions. They are friendly when you walk in and show you to your seats if you need them to. Then they will warn you when the show is about to start and also about turning mobiles off and basically being a nuisance in the theatre while the show is on. When we were watching Rocky Horror we had somebody continually watch out for phones which was great as it meant people cannot play up and spoil it for others.
The Alexandra Theatre has everything you want from a basic theatre and with a good rage of shows I really enjoy visiting. Majorly for me is location as I always panic about getting home from things but being by lots of public transport I find it fine and it takes away worries for me. Because it is in the middle of the city centre it is good because you can go into the centre to eat, drink or shop and then go to the theatre. They have a cloak room there to put stuff in if you have it and I think it costs 50p per item so not too bad.
In conclusion I think this theatre is fabulous and with it being fair in prices and a nice easy to get to theatre it has everything. I always find something I want to watch that is on here and when you get there you are guaranteed to have a good time with friendly staff and classy, smart surroundings, the Alexandra is a great theatre. I will be going here more often when I can and I would choose to go here for ease of location than many of the other theatres in Birmingham.
Thanks for reading.