To keep all documents relating to the October Preparation Challenge for NaNoWriMo
|The Hippodrome is West End Theatre, just about. It is sort of on the very edge of what can be acceptably be termed such, though certainly Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square are not a million miles away.
By day the entrance seems somehow a little shabby, and, despite regular coats of paint, there is an underlying tiredness that even the most careful TLC cannot entirely hide. At night, all this changes. When everywhere is brightly illuminated, that tiredness vanishes, all becomes bright and gaudy, bold and loud. The entrance hall throngs with a crowd eager for an evening's entertainment. The air is filled with their chatter and laughter.
A very British queue has formed for the tickets window, and coins are exchanged for small slips of card, each identifying the aisle and seat to which the bearer is entitled to reside in for the duration of the performance. Those still waiting gaze about them at the gilded reliefs, the colour scheme is predominantly red and gold. The walls are covered with many posters promoting upcoming appearances. Names are dropped, and acts whose very names suggest hyperbole are eagerly drunk in and filed for future reference.
You can't see much of the carpet for the throng, but you can feel it's depth as you walk across it. No expense was spared to suggest sumptuousness in this cathedral of public entertainment. No doubt it is well trodden, and here and there maybe a little threadbare, but you can tell it was once of high quality, and that it's aged well.
Through heavy doors, patron can access the stairs and ascend to the better seating, if their pocket affords. Otherwise they will go through into the main auditorium, with its sloping ranks of fixed seating. On the back of each seat is a coin operated holder for opera glasses, enabling a better view of the proceedings than the mere naked eye would generally allow.
The stage is hidden by two enormous and heavy curtains of red velvet, trimmed, inevitably, with gold. In front of the stage is the sunken enclosure that will house the players, whose musical accompaniments are an essential part of most entertainments.
Making our way up the side stairs that allow us to climb onto the stage, we push through the curtains to the stage itself. There is a feeling of huge space, for there is much behind the curtains that remains unseen, even when they are drawn, and all the lights are lit. We observe the prompters box, submerged unobtrusively where the audience can see nothing, but those on stage can receive a mental prompt of the memory is required, when lines are forgotten.
The edge of the stage is lined with footlights. Above us is a labyrinth of platforms and rigging to enable lights to be positioned, scenery raised and lowered, and if needed the occasional actor suspended.
Exiting by a side door we enter a corridor that runs around the rear of the stage, and gives access to a room for props. An Aladdin's cave of plaster and wood, plates filled with food that could never be consumed, daggers that slide into the handle when a quick stab is needed, but the death of an actor inadvisable, and hundreds of things that might be needed to create the illusion of reality on stage.
There are rooms full of costumes, racks filled with hanger hung finery and flounce; hats and caps and bonnets, and helmets.
Dressing rooms, some noticeably larger than others, some evidently for the lowly bit players and second fiddles look positively cramped.
But always there are mirrors, and lights, lots of lights.