Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Weekend in Bristol: The Old Vic Ball

The Old Vic Ball was a fundraiser for the Old Vic Theater in Bristol. The theater was built in the 18th century and is in [great] need of refurbishment. One of the selling points of the ball was that it was being held at the theater itself. When Zina and I arrived the place was chaos. There were hundreds of people crowding the theater's foyer with no real place to go. Fortunately Zina and I are still of student age & cunning and managed to wriggle our way towards the complimentary champagne cocktails and appetizers (mini bagels with Scottish smoked salmon & cream cheese). Actually, appetizer is perhaps more accurate, for it took us an hour to get one, and we only successfully got that by figuring out where there caterers were coming from and perching there. The food was gone by the time the caterer made it from the stairs to the drinks table (a journey of about twenty paces).

Bugle Player

When it was time for the first performance of the night, gentlemen with bugles played music and led us into the theater. The Southbank Sinfonia played some lovely 18th century pieces and there were various theatrical performances. When it approached 9 o'clock dinner was announced and a fanfare was played. Then the curtains behind the stage shot up and we saw that the backstage of the theater had been transformed into our ballroom.

The Southbank Sinfonia

Dinner was incredibly English—a queue was formed for the food, and dinner consisted of bangers, mash, & mushy peas (and red wine. I suppose ale would have been out of place). The company at our table was about what was expected, namely university professors and so-called "friends of the director"--The English Upper Middle Class in Bristol. Needless to say, some people were friendly and nice, and others were hilarious in the totality of their pretentious snobbery. I had a really hard time to keep from parodying them at the actual event, so I mostly saved it for after. "Oooooooooooooooooooooooooh, if only I had known that LORD FITZWIGGLESBOTTOM was coooooooooooooooming to this event. We could have sat together. Such a pity." I couldn't tell if Zina was laughing at my parody or at my awful "look how upper class I am" English accent (think the 'English' from Oak Bay in Victoria).

Tables Behind Stage

I digress. After dinner we returned to the theater stalls for the second act of the evening. There was a charity auction where people dropped £2000 like it was nothing. Then more acting, more music. But, best of all, there were two dramatic readings by Richard Johnson, a distinguished Shakespearean (and other) actor. His dramatic readings were one of the highlights of the evening.

Gratuitous "Dressed Up" Photo

After this second act we were free to do what we would, which involved a trip to the 'photo-booth' for fantastic diva photos, an ice-cream sundae bar, and dancing with a live band. I have never before had the pleasure of dancing behind stage in any theater, let alone an 18th Century theater, and I found it tremendously exciting. My husband will be pleased to note that I danced with my friend, and not with any Englishmen.

Dancing Backstage

When the ball was over we dragged our weary feet across Bristol to the flat of Zina's friend Simon. At first the walk was lovely, for Bristol is on a wide inlet and the water was pretty in the moonlight. As we climbed the giant hill towards Simon's flat the crowds of drunken English began spilling from the bars. I felt like Cinderella, only in this case I remained the same and the world around me changed from glitter back to dross. We were heckled by girls who looked like prostitutes, had to dodge our way around drunken boys, and passed some police consoling a very intoxicated girl outside a church. Eventually we arrived at the flat and, trying to make as little noise as possible, probably made enough noise to wake the dead. The funniest part of arriving at the flat was watching Zina try and determine if the rooms we were told to use were indeed empty. Creeping around a strange flat at three in the morning is something I can now safely say is an experience that belongs to the early-twenties. Potential camping out is not as much a novelty anymore. Fortunately the beds were free and I had a delightful sleep.

End of the night (so full of ice cream)

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