Across the Pond

Lindsay Hanson

Spending a term in London was not something I initially planned on when I made the decision to attend Lawrence. What drew me to the London Centre was the possibility of combining my academic studies with an internship. My internship placement is at Theatre 503, a small theater located in Battersea above a pub called The Latchmere. Yes, a pub. When I learned this and told my parents, they were not exactly thrilled with the situation, especially since the only way to enter the theatre at all is to walk through the pub. It’s only been a week, and I’ve already become best friends with the pub’s proprietor.
Each day, my work is different. I am always in charge of answering the phone – I am the intern, after all –and frequently I book tickets for people in the box office, a 4-foot-by-3-foot space in the corner of the lobby. This area also functions as the resting space, working space and the tea-making space. As I said, Theatre 503 is small, but they know how to use what little space they have. I’ve been offered so much tea here that I’ve started to drink coffee in order to mix things up a bit. Each week, a new show opens, and I am in charge of putting up new posters outside. This being London, each time I’ve put up new posters, it’s rained.
When I’m not at my theater or in class, I like to explore London’s vibrant performance scene. I’ve taken tours of both the Royal Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall, two spaces at the opposite end of the spectrum from Theatre 503. Theatre 503 seats approximately 60 people, while by comparison, tennis and basketball matches have been held at the Royal Albert Hall. The space’s original design was intended to be big enough to hold a football, or soccer, match.
Similarly, the fly space at the Royal Opera House – for those of you who are theater geeks – has 106 fully automated line sets and is three times the height of the proscenium arch, which is already quite high. Another of my favorite spaces so far to visit is Wilton’s Music Hall, built in 1858. According to their Web site, Wilton’s is the world’s oldest and last surviving grand music hall. Indeed, the building is quite literally falling apart, and without repair could cease to exist in the next few years due to a collapsing roof. Today, only 60 percent of the building is safe to be used. Upon entering the building, I felt like I had entered a castle. As it’s made of stone and heated with space heaters only in the lobby area, it was quite cold for a performance held at 8 p.m.
Probably the grandest of the performances I have seen so far was “The Nutcracker” by the Royal Ballet. Having either been backstage, in the pit or dropping snowflakes for my last four performances of “The Nutcracker,” I was excited to be an audience member yet again. From my seat in the nosebleed section of the Royal Opera House – can’t beat those 8-pound tickets – I could see most of the stage and most of the orchestra in the pit. The technical production was solid: seamless transitions using scrims to divide the stage, multiple trap doors, huge pieces of scenery and phenomenal lighting effects.
The dancers were truly great – athletically very strong and artistically beautiful – and the orchestra played impeccably. Since I attended the final performance of the season, I could tell that the musicians were excited to get out of there, for by the time the curtain opened for bows at the end of the production, most of them had already finished packing up their instruments and had started to put on their jackets and scarves to head out into our balmy 40-degree weather …