Touch Tours

Instagram: @sightlyimperfectstagey

Twitter: @_LeahRachel

Being my first proper blog for All Things West End, I thought it might be nice to explore an opportunity particularly unique to the West End in comparison to over on Broadway – the ever magical “touch tours”. 

A touch tour is usually held before an audio described performance, and is where a visually impaired person can explore some of the staging and props by feeling them, having them described etc.

I have only ever been on touch tours with the company ‘VocalEyes’, however if anyone knows any other companies who provide and support them, then I would love to be able to experience one.

For a little context to my international comparison, when in New York during summer 2017, my friend arranged a surprise morning backstage at The Gershwin Theatre, a theatre equivalent of royalty and currently home to Wicked the Musical. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I feel honoured that I was able to help them open up the door for them to be in a position they can begin to offer similar experiences one day if they would like to.

My first West End touch tour was the glamorous Wicked, at our Apollo Victoria theatre. Wicked, particularly at the Apollo, will always be incredibly special to me, as it was one of the last things I properly got to see before my sight unexpectedly, yet significantly, worsened.  This means that I do have a slight advantage that whenever I have watched it since, I have a visual point of reference to aid me in understanding what’s going on up on stage.

My touch tour at Wicked was a beautiful experience, and truly one I’ll never forget. The first thing that I felt when I walked onto that beautiful stage was how much harder it is under foot than the Gershwin’s stage. It was really nice to be able to understand the perceptions of where dancers and actors stood in relation to props, the size of props and mechanisms, and to gain the spacial awareness of the stage to understand the ways in which the dancers can move so freely and eloquently in what is in fact not as big a space as most would imagine.  

Another subtle yet extremely important part of the touch tour was to be able to experience the texture of the props – of the Shiz University walls, Glinda’s bubble, and of the props that having seen the show mostly sighted I still didn’t know even existed. There are also commonly a couple of cast members who are in costume, which makes understanding the true masterpiece of a story down to the little details something that VI people no longer have to miss out on. 

Going on a touch tour is a transforming and transcending experience to have, liberating the two-dimensional experience of shows that VI audience members normally experience into a three-dimensional world that we can be immersed in – just as all other audience members are.

If you’ve had a touch tour and want to share your story with me then contact me on Instagram or twitter, whether they be fantastic or horrific – I want to hear it all.

Sightly Imperfect Stagey

Twitter: @_LeahRachel 

Instagram: @sightlyimperfectstagey

Being a blogger for the team All Things West End, which you can find at,  I wanted to also create a space that people know they can visit which focuses on the wonderful and weird world that is theatre when you’re chronically ill, disabled or impaired. 

First of all, thank you for being here to take a look at my little ol’ blog for All Things West End. An accessibility blog devoted to all things stagey, and all things accessibility – the successes, and the horror stories.

I have lots of things that I need to explain to you here in my introduction, so I’ll start with the very basics.

I’m Leah, I’m 18 and I’m your writer here at the blog ‘Sightly Imperfect Stagey’. I love everything musical orientated, have a rather unique perspective compared to most, and love to help others understand how what might be seen as limitations can still mean theatre can be a liberating and engaging experience. 

I think it’s important that in order for people to be able to understand my unique perspective of theatre, you need to understand me a little more. I lost a lot of my sight when I was 17 over a lunchtime at school, having only a couple of weeks before that had my eyes opened (pun very much intended) to how life-changing theatre can be. They’re not completely sure why I can’t see, but I don’t mind that too much anymore.

I also have a degenerative condition, that means all the glue holding my body together, well, doesn’t hold my body together any more. I use a wheelchair some of the time and crutches the rest of the time. It means sitting through shows can be very painful, and takes a lot more energy than it would for most.

My singing lessons, which are usually musical theatre orientated, are my favourite part of the week; and my singing teacher is the greatest mentor in the industry that a gal could ever wish for.

Some words that you may come across throughout this blog may not make sense depending on if you are reading this from a perspective of the disabled community or the theatre community. The abbreviation ‘VI’ stands for ‘visually impaired, the abbreviation ‘AD’ stands for audio described. I’ll try to explain any others as I go along.

I hope to use this blog to reach out to other disabled theatregoers, and to create an awareness to those who may have never even given it a thought before. To talk about all things that matter to people who have to think just that little bit extra about the complications before heading to a show; and explain their perspectives to the people who don’t. 

I hope that I haven’t put you off just yet, and that you’ll come back to have a read when the next posts are up.

In the meantime, contact me via Instagram or twitter, or through All Things West End, and tell me your accessibility stories – the happy and the nightmares, I want to hear them all. 

Until next time lovelies,

Leah x