On 26 May 2022, I watched the hunchback of Notre Dame at Lincoln Cathedral, a stage show put on by the Starring Lincoln Theatre Company.

Every year the company puts on a production in the nave of the cathedral, and local people can audition for roles. So everyone taking part in the show is a local resident, making it more special.

A platform had been constructed inside the cathedral, and I had to go up a ramp to get to the seating area. Tiered seating was arranged on the top of the platform and in front of it was the stage area. I sat in front of the seating, which was immediately in front of the performance area.

Credit: Eleanor Maslin

I literally couldn’t get any closer to the action if I tried. The actors were within touching distance from me at times, and there was a danger that they would trip over my foot plates. But luckily, no one did.

I thought the performance was fantastic and very enjoyable. The actors did an excellent job, especially considering they weren’t professionals. There were plenty of songs, performed by a live orchestra, and the actors all had good singing voices.

All the costumes and props looked well made and everyone looked the part. Plus the cathedral itself made the performance more atmospheric.

Some of the actors stole the show, though, like the guy playing Quasimodo, a performing arts student in Lincoln.

Accessibility improvements needed

For me personally, though, there were a few downsides.

Firstly, I didn’t understand any of the dialogue due to my hearing loss. I needed subtitles to follow what was being said, so without these, I was a bit lost. Live subtitles for stage shows are a thing; see here for Stage Text. So hopefully, next year, the company will be able to use them, making performances more inclusive for those with hearing loss.

Secondly, as I was right in front of the seating and pretty much on the stage itself, there was no way I could have sneaked off mid-performance if I needed the toilet. This would have either disturbed other viewers or impeded the actors. The ramp I came up to get up there in the first place was being used to bring up props and scenery.

Luckily I didn’t need to go to the toilet until the interval, but I’m glad I didn’t need to go during the performance. It might have caused chaos and been very embarrassing. Hopefully, next time the company will have seating for wheelchair users that is easier to get in and out of without impeding anyone else.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed the performance. Despite not being able to understand the dialogue, I managed to follow the gist of what was happening. But it would have been much easier for me if there were live captions. I love how local people play the characters as it makes it a real community production. It’s definitely worth going to see a production by the Starring Theatre company and I look forward to next year’s show.

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