Rebecca Herbert: Getting around South London as a wheelchair user

It’s now possible to wheel into a secret world to bring Hollywood cinema to life. Selina Davis and I travelled to Verona Beach for Secret Cinema Presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The fully-accessible event celebrated the 1996 Baz Luhrmann cult film, and took place between August 8 and 26.

Rebecca Herbert

A secret outdoor London location transported visitors to a world which depicted the iconic and stylised elements of the film and Shakespeare’s story.

The open-air production was set against the themes of peace, redemption, and salvation.

Young hearts of Verona were summoned to the city on behalf of the brave and noble Captain Prince to create a truce between the warring houses and to crush a cup of wine in peace.

Before the event itself, attendees were sorted into Montagues or Capulets and an online world revealed your character, what to wear, and the latest goings-on in Verona.

We, the Capulets, were instructed to dress in black and red, while the Montagues wore baby blue and pink, with Hawaiian shirts and masquerade masks suggested for all.

We had been given a time and location at which to meet before being led to Verona, but as I am a wheelchair user, I went directly to the venue.

The secret location had been transformed into the spectacular, multi-layered world of Verona Beach, bringing together live bands, DJs, choirs and artists. It had the feeling of a summer festival and effects then brought the immersive film to life.

There were wide ramps where needed and staff and performers were very helpful. There were accessible toilets and special prices for the disabled.

As part of the experience, phones were sealed in bags upon entry, to keep everything secret.

Secret Cinema has pioneered a new fusion of immersive performance and film, which allows audiences to dress the part and build their own characters, before exploring an open, fully-themed world filled with the iconic characters they know and love.

Launched in 2007, when it staged grassroots screenings in abandoned buildings, there have been  more than 70 productions to date, including Back to the Future, Moulin Rouge and Blade Runner.

Secret Cinema presents William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was the biggest, most ambitious project so far, with almost 5,000 people taking part in the show every night and up to 70,000 visitors over the duration of the run.

Wheelchair-friendly food and theatres :

Finding a wheelchair accessible theatre or restaurant with an accessible toilet and step-free entrance often seems like an impossible task, but I will make the process easier:

Summer Holiday, September 18-22
Ray Quinn stars as Don (originally played by Cliff Richard in the film), who heads on a fun-packed boys’ trip in a London bus visiting Paris, the Alps, Italy and Greece, in search of a good time and brilliant summer.
New Wimbledon Theatre, 93 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19
1QG 0800 912 6971

Boozy Bougie Drag Brunch, September 22 and November 17
Once every month Exhibit B offers brunch hosted by two of London’s top drag queens. Every ticket includes one brunch dish with an hour-and-a-half of bottomless bubbles plus all the entertainment the drag queens can deliver from 2.30pm.
Exhibit B, 5, Streatham High Road, London SW16 1EF

Khyber Restaurant
284-288 High Street
Croydon, CR01NG
The restaurant offers traditional Indian food with a twist. The entrance and restaurant is wheelchair-accessible and there is also an adapted toilet.

The Fox & Hounds,
165-167 Upper Richmond Road, Putney

London SW15 6SE
The pub provides step-free access and a mix of high and low tables. A small garden is accessible and the disabled toilet is situated in the middle of the pub.

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