Sunday, 8 September 2013

Hippodrome Albion

We spent this afternoon at the Albion pub in Islington celebrating Jem's birthday. It was a lovely occasion, marred only slightly by the weather (coldish and damp) and the attitude of the staff within the pub who came across as arrogant, and,
in some cases, rather rude. 

It's one of those London pubs which obviously knows its value. It'll always be packed to the rafters because it's such a beautiful building in a highly desirable part of town, but its "too cool for school" staff plainly don't feel the need to try that hard.

Still, I love hanging out with Jem's lot. They're a rag-taggle bunch of glamorous bohemians from all corners of the world who are absolutely brilliant company.

This evening we went to the Hippodrome in Leicester Square to see the incomparably talented Christina Bianco doing her cabaret set. Bianco is a mimic who sings well-known songs in the style of diva vocalists. She's obviously a lovely lass and is spectacularly good at what she does. No one takes on Celine Dion, Kristen Chenoweth, Shirley Bassey and Barbra Streisand (and wins) without having a seriously impressive set of pipes. 

We went there with Lli. I'd never set foot in the iconic Hippodrome before. It had become a cheesy night club by the time I'd moved to London and these days, after a full-scale makeover, it's a casino. I've never been in a casino before and was surprised at how busy and claustrophobic it felt. Almost every corner was filled with card tables covered in blue baize, slot machines and weird groups of yanks watching American football matches underneath bizarre chandeliers. It was a surprised to find a rather charming cabaret space on the third floor. 

It's really quite depressing to enter a building which was once (but is no longer) such an important theatrical location. It was built in 1900, and Wikipedia tells me that the entrance to the auditorium was through a bar which was dressed like a "ship's saloon."

The auditorium itself included a proscenium arch theatre and also an arena which sank into a 230 foot, 100,000 gallon tank which was used for "aquatic spectacles." The tank featured eight central fountains and a circle of fountains around the edge. Entrances at the side of the auditorium could be flooded and used for the boats. Shows in the venue often included polar bears, elephants and horses. And the place even had a retractable roof that could be lit up at night.  It's where Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake was first performed in this country for Heaven's sake!

Why on earth would we replace a unique space like that with a blinking casino?!

No comments:

Post a Comment