So picture this. I have my first class “Contemporary British Theatre” on wednesday night. But instead of having an actual class, our first class is a theatrical production. Now, i’m not complaining, but this particular set up did lead to some rather interesting turn of events…
First, a little more backstory. So, on tuesday I was in the middle of an hour long class when our teacher decided to give us a 20 minute break. 20 minutes is not time for much so I decided to go to the school information center that was on the same floor as my class. I had received an email from my theatre professor asking a student to pick up the class tickets for the performance and decided, since I had the time, I would pick them up in the office. So, I proceeded to go into the office, take the tickets, ask the desk worker for the address of the theatre, and went back to my class.
Fast forward a little bit. I am checking and rechecking my pockets for the tickets, my oyster card (for the Tube), my keys, and my notepad and giving myself about an hour to get to the theatre so there is no way i can be late. Nothing can go wrong right? Well…
Traveling the Tube was pretty easy. I had to transfer only one line and I’m pretty used to that because of experience in Boston, MA. One thing Boston public transportation doesn’t have, however, is tunnels quite so far into the ground as the London Underground. I didn’t realize how far down I actually was until I had to go back up. I used two GIANT escalators and must have been on both of them for at least two minutes at a time. I got that sort of swaying feeling one gets when they are on a ledge and I had to force myself not to look down while holding on to the railing so tightly that my fingers were white. And all the while Londoners are pushing past me to my left, running up the escalators as if they were not almost vertical and 100ft away from the nearest flat surface. I’m not over-exaggerating. Escalators are a staple in the functioning of the Tube. There are 426 escalators in the network and the longest one is 60 meters long!! I don’t think I was on the longest one, but these escalators are no joke.
Moving on to the part where I got off the escalators, I arrived at Waterloo station and followed my directions down a dark alley on the side of the station. My directions said the box office was after the iron staircase so I was looking around. The only staircase I could see was a staircase covered in graffiti that led into an underground tunnel. Now I know the venue was called the “Old Vic Tunnels” but I wasn’t really expecting to have to walk down into a tunnel where 20+ guys were busy spray-painting the walls without any type of theatre building in sight. I walked around the stairs for a while deliberating if I should go down. Finally, I took a deep breath and made my descent into a huge, flourescent-lit tunnel full of vibrant colors and strongly smelling of paint. As I walked past the british spray painters I finally came across an almost hidden door where a friendly guard was waiting to direct me to the show I was about to see “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” I was relieved that I had found the venue, and impressed that I was 40 minutes early for the show and 20 minutes earlier than my professor had said to meet. Unfortunately, I was waiting at the Old Vic Tunnels and the rest of the class was waiting at the Old Vic Theatre. And the best part? If you remember, I had everyone’s tickets. I don’t know what was said at the Old Vic Theatre, but there was probably some form of mild panic going on. Oops.. So, because I knew no one in my class and did not have my professor’s phone number, I stayed in the tunnel, chatted with the guard and observed the painters for a bit.
One of the first thing I asked the guard about was the painters. Was it legal? He assured me it was legal and a welcomed occurrence. I then looked all around me at the different artists painting, taking photos of their finished work, taking smoking breaks and also trying to ignore me as I stared at them. The walls were covered in color and bathed in a bright white light that created a setting unlike anything I have ever seen before. Hanging at the highest part of the ceiling were see-through plastic bodies also painted many different colors. It was a cool experience to be in such a creative hot spot for my first taste of London theatre. I tried to take pictures but I only had my prepaid phone and its pictures did not do the area justice.
Finally, at about 5 minutes to showtime, my group arrived and was definitely relieved to see me. I handed out the tickets, apologized to my flustered professor and went inside to experience “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”