It isn’t often that you find yourself in a queue of people waiting to be let inside a library. Well, not outside finals week anyway. And that tends to involve a bit more crying and ProPlus jitters than this group displaying.
“This square’s a bit posh, isn’t it?” said Helen, dropping her voice by at least an octave as we entered the library.
That’s quite the statement from someone I literally met at the Royal Opera House.
I knew what she meant though. Walking over from work, and turning from the West End into Piccadilly is quite the shock. Streets widen, ceilings heighten, and walls whiten. It’s like stepping into a period drama. You can practically hear the rattle of carriage wheels making their way around St James’ Square.
“I wish I could have seen in back in Jane Austen’s day,” she continued in a whisper.
It’s amazing how even out-of-hours the papery-silence of a library’s atmosphere gets to you.
As if on cue, the line shifted forward, bringing into view the most extraordinary day-bed. Built on a scale suitable for giants, and upholstered in a whisky coloured leather, this seemed better suited to Byron’s hangover than Mrs Bennett’s vapour attacks, but I’m never one to pass up the opportunity presented by a fainting couch.
“Do you want me to take a photo of you on it?” asked Helen.
I pretended to consider this for a full half-second before dropping my bag and sinking myself into the squashy leather surface.
Oh yeah. That’s the stuff. I need to get me one of these.
I wonder if the library would consider loaning it out to me. I’ll bring it back, I swear!
Photoshoot complete, we headed to the makeshift box office. Now, in theory I had an e-ticket, but if this marathon has taught me anything, it’s that one must always check in at the box office. You never know what you’re going to get. Like a miniature postcard with optical-illusion artwork printed on the front, and your seat numbers scrawled on the back, for instance.
“Oh my god, look at this!” I showed Helen, much to the amusement of the box office lady. “So cute!”
“You and your tickets,” laughed Helen.
Yeah, well, look. Everyone has their vices. Mine just happens to be paper-based-theatre-keepsakes. And I don’t think anyone going to see a play in a library is in any position to pass judgement on that. And the illustrated artwork is really cute. There’s no denying it. What with the little bats fluttering around, and the silhouette of Dracula himself cupping the chins of the two figures behind him.
She also bought me a drink.
And a programme.
The woman is such a fucking angel. Seriously.
Drinks, programmes, and pretty tickets acquired, we followed the signs up the stairs to the room that would be serving as our theatre for the evening.
“Is this the main reading room?” she asked as we dumped our coats and bags. “Look, you’re not allowed to bring laptops in here.”
“It’s very old fashioned,” I explained, staring at my assigned seat and wondering how I was going to clamber up onto it. It was a tall chair. I am not tall. Nor am I adept at climbing. I can’t see one of these things without wholeheartedly believing that I will fall off and die if I attempt to sit on it.
What can I say? I have issues.
It’s okay though. We’re working through this. You and me. Together.
Yeah, sorry to dump that on you. But I’m giving you some quality content over here, the least you can do is provide me with some unpaid therapy. Don’t worry, you don’t have to say anything. You just sit there and look pretty while I prattle on over here.
I flicked open the programme. God-lord, look at that formatting! Two-spaces after the full-stops! I thought that convention went out with the typewriter. This place really is old fashioned.
Which is exactly what I want from a library. And even more what I want for a production of Dracula.
The set, such as it is, was simple. A chaise longue (much more reasonably proportioned than the leather monstrosity lurking downstairs), a ladder, a couple of projection screens and, of course… the library itself. With its staircase and walkway and window.
“That bit in the window!” I gasped when the interval rolled around.
“The window, was amazing,” agreed Helen.
I don’t think I’ll get the image of the screen being rolled up to reveal the shadowy form of Van Helsing standing there, in the dark, peering in at us through the panes of the French window, for a long time.
“And the projections are great,” continued Helen.
“The projections are great.”
“The way they are integrated into the work.”
“Absolutely.” I paused. “Doesn’t he look like Matthew Ball?” I said, referring to The Royal Ballet principal.
“Oh my god, he does look like Matthew Ball.”
“It’s the eyes.”
“And the hair.”
“I like him.”
“And not just because he looks like Matthew Ball.”
Helen looked at me skeptically.
“I like her too,” I said hurriedly. “She has the most gorgeously vintage face.”
“She does have a very vintage face.”
“They’re both great.”
I reached down for my bag in an attempt to hide my flusters.
“I’m just going to get a photo of that calendar,” I said, slipping off the chair and scuttling over to the wooden pillar which housed a set of date cards.
This place is so, so old-fashioned.
I love it so hard.
Unfortunately, my little crush on both of the cast members only increased during the second act on the reappearance of the window.
The screen was whipped away. The window opened.
They began to climb out onto the roof.
I gasped. They couldn’t do that! It was raining! They weren’t even wearing coats!
When they reappeared I had to sit on my hands in an effort to stop myself from running after the pair of them with a warm scarf.
The sight of her skirt covered in rain droplets made my heart ache.
I wanted to bake biscuits for the pair of them.
You know I’ve got it bad when I want to bake for people. It’s the Jewish grandmother in me.
They were really cute though.
I’m not sure it’s entirely appropriate to get a case of the warm fuzzies from a production of Dracula, but what can I say… it’s the Goth in me.
It was still raining when we left the library.
Somehow it’s less romantic when it’s you being rained on.
And don’t have anyone to bake biscuits for you.