Publicity image for Opera North's Trouble in Tahiti. The image shows a backstage with boxes piled on shelves on the right. To the left of the shelves, there is a small mobile stage where two people are. A woman on a yellow dress, hands on hips, stands in front of a microphone as if ready to sign. Next to her, a man sits on a stool while exercising with dumbbells.

The Interval, #3

Welcome to the third edition of The Interval – VocalEyes’s  weekly selection of accessible cultural experiences available remotely until our favourite venues re-open their doors. This week’s edition is by Michael, Theatre Programme Manager.

Theatre audio description: the perfect technology…

While we all eagerly await the resumption of normality and the re-opening of the theatres – VocalEyes needs YOU! We have written previously about the technology currently used to deliver audio descriptions – now we want the people who actually use the service to say what kind of system they would ideally like to use for receiving audio description in the theatre, more information and all of our contact details are available here: The perfect theatre audio description technology.

For children of all ages

Regular attendees at theatre audio descriptions will recognise the voice reading Winnie The Pooh.Willie Elliot is an actor, and through his work with Graeae Theatre company was trained by VocalEyes in audio description, subsequently developing his freelance work and audio describing for the National Theatre. In fact Willie is the only VocalEyes audio describer to have been audio described by VocalEyes when he played multiple roles in Journey To The River Sea at the Unicorn Theatre in 2006!

Audio-described opera

This interval in public theatre has highlighted the general lack of access to online theatre, but Opera North worked with The Space to film and audio describe their production of Leonard Bernstein’s one act opera: Trouble in Tahiti. It even begins with a set of introductory notes setting the scene.


The Bard of Avon was no stranger to the theatres being closed due to plague. His works also contains a kind of audio description, as the theatre of his day did not have the sets and back-projections of today’s – the scene was often set verbally by the characters. The Show Must Go Online are aiming to livestream all of Shakespeare’s works in the order they were written by using Zoom. While there is no audio description, each actor is performing alone via video-link, so as they used to say in Shakespeare’s day – you “hear the play” more than you see it. They begin with The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which includes a short introduction from Shakespeare specialist Ben Crystal.

Incidentally Lucetta is played by Emily Carding, and the last time I acted (20 years ago, in Absent Friends at The Harrogate Theatre Studio) we played husband and wife! My exit from the acting profession was nothing to do with Emily (she was lovely!) and wholly due to my lack of talent.

Shakespeare for (actual) children

CBeebies has to be one of the high watermarks of our culture (how did people parent before it started)!? And on iPlayer (with audio description) they take on the last play Shakespeare wrote on his own: The Tempest. A magic island, a stormy shipwreck and a royal mystery! Patrick Robinson is Prospero as Swashbuckle’s Captain Captain helps William Shakespeare stage his play The Tempest.

A spot of mischief

Mischief Theatre are the creators of The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, The Comedy About The Bank Robbery, Groan Ups and Magic Goes Wrong – and they are great supporters of theatre audio description. At a time when many of us could use a chuckle, the whole of their TV series – The Goes Wrong Show is currently available on iPlayer with audio description.

One of the chief mischief makers, Henry Lewis, is also uploading a new Sleepy Story for Tricky Times (bedtime stories for kids, or adults) each week.

Escape lockdown

One of my favourite places in the world is Florence, and via this audio-described documentary on iPlayer we can all be there instantly. Hip-hop legend and art lover Fab 5 Freddy (aka Fred Brathwaite) saddles up to explore 15th-century Italian renaissance art in 15th-century style – on horseback.  Amidst superstar artists such as Michelangelo, Giotto, Ghiberti and Carpaccio, Fab discovers ground-breaking images of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society that have slipped through the cracks of art history

The British Museum

The British Museum’s podcast number 13 is all about accessibility and features VocalEyes describer Di Langford following our first audio-described tour of the South Asia part of the Hotung Gallery. We’ll be delivering further tours of the Gallery as soon as we can get back on site.

Shout out for sight loss charities

The RNIB regularly publishes useful information and details of their campaign work to the Covid-19 area of their website.

VICTA has collated a great resource with ideas for spending your time and staying in touch.

British Blind Sport has some wonderful resources to help you exercise and keep fit at home.

Bacon goes off (-West End)

Inspired by the popular Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.  The cast of which show audio-described at the Donmar Warehouse, Almeida Theatre and Royal Court (since 2018) provides the missing link between:

  1. ITV’s Grantchester and the film 28 Days Later
  2. BBC’s Spooks and ITV’s Belgravia
  3. The film The Crying Game and the Film Christopher Robin

If anyone manages to get 1, 2 or even all 3 right – we will let you know, along with the answers, next week!

Stay safe and keep in touch with us by emailTwitter and Facebook.

Museum and Heritage Access Survey

Together with other access organisations Stagetext and Autism in Museums. VocalEyes is undertaking a survey of people who have visited museum or heritage site in the UK in the past 12 months and used access facilities or support, or have visited as companions to people who have. If this is you, please take the Museum and Heritage Access Survey 2020 and help the museum and heritage sector learn to what extent they are meeting or failing to meet the access requirements of our visitors. The survey takes 10-14 minutes and uses SurveyMonkey. A Large Print Word version is also available.


Image: Publicity image for Opera North’s Trouble in Tahiti.