Newest Review: ... 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... more
Enjoying 'Milkshake' with Alexandra!
Alexandra Theatre (Birmingham)
Member Name: i_am_joy
Alexandra Theatre (Birmingham)
Advantages: A wonderful building, an excellent range of shows, good facilities
Disadvantages: Disabled access is poor
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.
Summary: A fabulous night out with my two youngest granddaughters.
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