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User profile: Toby Davey

What was the first audio described performance you went to? What was it like?

I went to Take Me Out at the Donmar Warehouse. It was a fantastic show and with audio description it just all came to life for me.

The touch tour was brilliant, I had never experienced one before and as my brother is a set and costume designer for the theatre, it was fantastic to have the opportunity to go round the set, have it described, get up close with the props and experience the space the actors would be performing in. It was a great treat!

Knowing what was happening on stage during the performance, having it described just took my breath away as I had been struggling with going to the theatre and trying to work out what was happening on stage – as you can only follow so much with just listening to the dialogue.

Knowing not just the big physical things, but the subtle things like the facial expressions a actor makes as part of the character they are playing, says so much more about that character and adds so much to my understanding of the play.

How did audio description change your life?

Audio description made the theatre come to life for me, it opened up my eyes to enjoying and sharing that great live theatre experience. Which I had been struggling to do so without it!

Have you had any negative experiences?

The only negative experience I have had at any theatre is to do with the meet and greet you get when you arrive.

You want to be treated as a normal person with staff understanding your needs as a blind or partially sighted person. I don’t want people to hassle me, I don’t want to be patronized but I need people to understand my needs.

When I walk up to the Box Office or the bar I don’t want to be ignored and want to be acknowledged and dealt with in a pleasant and friendly manner. Staff need to understand my needs, and understand not to distract or fuss over my Guide Dog as well!

What is the best experience you’ve had?

The best experience for me was the first time my wife Sara and I went to the theatre together.

It was Phantom of the Opera, which is my wife’s favorite musical. To be honest I am not a great fan of musicals but I wanted to go to a show that Sara wanted to see, and one that I knew that I would enjoy with audio description.

The great thing about going to the audio described performance together was the fact that we were both able to enjoy the show and I was just as well informed as Sara with the audio description.

When the chandelier came to life at the beginning of the show – being drawn up to the roof of the auditorium and lighting up – I new it was happening as it was being described. Sara nudged me to say ‘wow the chandelier is coming to life, oh wow it’s amazing..’ and I was able to say ‘yes I know it is as it was being described!’

And to put it in a nutshell that is what is so fantastic about audio description, not only being able to go to the theatre and have the performance described so that I know what is happening and what the show is like,, how it looks, what the characters are like, etc, but being able to share the experience of going to the theatre again is what it is all about.

Oh yes and I have been to many other musicals now and I am becoming more of a fan too!

How often do you now go to theatre?

Sadly I don’t go as often as I would like as I used to go almost every other weekend or at least once a month. Due to being away a lot at weekends I would say that I would now only go to the theatre once every other month which is a real shame but I try to go as often as I can!

What has the customer service at venues been like?

Some venues are great with their customer service and sadly others are not so great.

If you have a great time at a venue and the customer service is great then you will visit that venue again and again but sadly if the customer service is not so good you may be put off for a long time and not so keen to go back.

I know some other blind and partially sighted theater goers who have described some theatres as being like visiting a warm and welcoming front room in a friends house as the customer service is so good.

If you get the customer service right then people may be more varied in the type of production they would go to see, and be more willing to tell their friends how wonderful the venue was – and what a great time they had.