Last night I was at The Shed. It was a very strange place to find myself, considering The Shed is a theatre that no longer exists. Where it once stood on the Southbank, its towering red walls bright within the shadows of the National Theatre that loomed over it, there is now only empty space. The wooden walls have been brought down and cleared away. But my subconscious doesn't seem to have caught up with these developments. Because last night, as I slept, I went back to The Shed.
It's not enough that I spend everyday writing and thinking about theatres, working for one during the day and visiting the rest at night. They've now started to invade my dreams.
It was quiet a nice dream though. I did like The Shed. I'm sad it's gone.
Unfortunately, it doesn't count towards the marathon. On account of it not being a real place anymore, and me dreaming up the entire trip.
Thankfully, I do have a bona fide, genuine theatre, that isn't made of sleep-deprivation and the murkier portions of my imagination, to cross off the list.
For once, I was off to an area of London that I actually knew. A bit.
Hammersmith. It's on the Piccadilly line. And close to the river. And it's home to the Lyric. No, not that Lyric. The other one. The one that doesn't house the source of all my anxieties while holding itself together with duct tape.
The station also has two doughnut shops in it. Which I feel is just the right amount of doughnut shops, and is something TFL should be looking at rolling out across the tube network.
These are all the facts that I know about Hammersmith.
Or the facts that I did know about Hammersmith. I have a few more now.
Like: The Lyric Hammersmith has some excellent signage going on throughout the building.
Yes, it’s all a bit cutsey. A bit… wannabe innocent-smoothie-copywriter-esque. But it’s big. And clear. And there is lots of it. Which is what we want from signage, isn’t it?
I found it all very soothing. It’s like Bach’s Rescue Remedy, except painted on a wall and without the aftertaste of rotten flower petals.
Also: Usually when you buy tickets via GILT (tickets from £10 in the New Year’s sale still available last time I checked), the ticket you are presented with at the theatre is from See Tickets. You probably know the ones I mean. They’re pink and yellow, with a starburst effect. Kinda ugly.
Not so at the Lyric. Here you get a proper Lyric Hammersmith ticket. With their branding. Including a heart watermark, and the title formatted in a brush-stoke styley font that matches the signage. You can tell that they spent on lot on brand consultants, and they are damn well making use of it. Nothing will go unbranded. I bet even the loo roll is printed with some uplifting and adorable tagline.
It might sound like I’m making fun, but that’s only because I am so in awe of this commitment to all things Lyric Brand. Kudos to whoever is the brand guardian at the Lyric Hammersmith. You are doing great work. May the theatre gods bless and keep you safe.
Lastly: There’s a super lovely terrace. And we all know how much I appreciate a terrace. I spent some quality minutes out there, taking photos and contemplating the heads of the people wandering down below.
Sadly, minutes were all I had, as it was time to head into the auditorium.
A few tasty signs later I got my ticket checked at the door, headed down a short red corridor and…
What the actual fuck?
I stopped dead, blocking the doorway. It was only when the person behind me coughed politely under his breath that I managed to gather myself enough to move over to one side. And then I stood some more. Staring.
Gilt? Plaster mouldings? Crazy-ornate ceiling?
Was I hallucinating? Had the lack of sleep finally got to me?
No, I was fairly sure my imagination is not that good.
It was real.
My brain refused to believe it. There had to be some other explanation for what I was seeing. Perhaps, it suggested, firing up some long neglected synapses, I had wandered through a portal to another dimension while making my way down that red corridor. Or maybe, piped up another thought, I had neglected to change lines when I got off the train at Leicester Square, and had made my way to one of the West End houses instead.
But the terrace? I argued.
“The Garrick had a terrace,” snapped back my brain.
But not like that. It was an itty bitty thing. It didn’t have plants.
My brain shrugged. “A portal then.”
I didn’t have the energy to argue anymore.
Final fact about Hammersmith: the auditorium of the Lyric theatre is housed in a separate dimension.
I took a few photos just to prove to myself that I had actually been there, that I had journeyed between two universes, and lived to tell the tale.
After that, I needed to sit down. The cognitive dissonance of stepping from a modern building into an Edwardian auditorium, full of curly architecture, was too much for me.
That may have been a mistake.
One thing that became very clear about this other universe is that the people are missing one of their senses. Either proprioception, or the one of the common variety. I swear every single person passing through the row behind me managed to thwack me across the back of the head.
I mean… maybe they saw me up on the terrace on their way in, and sensed that I was judging the top of their heads and thought I needed a good smack applied to mine. I know not. What I do know, is that I got a bit of a headache after the fifth person managed to introduce the corner of their handbag to my skull.
Thankfully it didn’t stop me enjoying the show.
Leave to Remain sounded very worthy when I booked it. And no fun at all. Thankfully, I was wrong. Very wrong.
It’s charming AF and was the cause of my second standing ovation of the year (my first was, unsurprisingly, at the Playhouse Theatre for Caroline, or Change).
I may have even had a little cry on the tube ride home.
I am very tired.
Travelling to another universe will do that to a person.
And might go someway to explaining my dream about The Shed.
Still, inter-dimensional portals or no, I look forward to returning. And I don’t even need to wait until next year on this one! The Lyric has a studio space that I have to see. I might even treat myself to a doughnut to eat on the terrace.