I’ve never been a fan of the whole “date night” concept (Or phrase. Sounds so icky.). But if we were to have a date night, last night would have been pretty much the perfect one. We started with dinner in Tayyabs – if you live in London and you haven’t yet had the lamb chops from Tayyabs, then shame on you. What have you been doing with your life? Once we’d eaten so much we couldn’t move, we rolled ourselves and our curry-stained fingers over to Wilton’s Music Hall to watch the performance of Mark Bruce’s Dracula.
I’m quite obsessed with learning about the rich history of East London, and Wilton’s Music Hall is one of the gems of the area. It originally opened in the 18th Century as an alehouse, becoming known as “The Mahogany Bar” from around 1826 – apparently because the landlord was the first to install a mahogany bar and fittings in his pub. From around 1850, when it was bought by John Wilton, The Mahogany Bar became a Music Hall – with a large concert room in the back, entertaining punters with stars such as George Ware, and Champagne Charlie – and even, according to some sources, was the location of the first performance of the Can-Can in London (after which it was promptly banned).
Following its incarnation as a music hall, it then passed into the hands of the East London Methodist Mission in 1888, and it remained as a mission hall for the next 70 years. After another reincarnation as a rag sorting depot – and surviving war, fire and floods – the building is now seeing a new life as a performance and arts venue – you may have seen its recent appearance starring alongside Robert Downey Junior in Sherlock Holmes 2 – and you can even get married here!
This visit was the first time I had seen a performance at Wilton’s – although I have previously joined one of their fantastic and informative free tours – and the show I was seeing fitted in perfectly with the general atmosphere of stylish Victorian era dereliction (unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the hall due to my phone battery giving up at the first sign of actual use, but there are plenty on the website here)
The show we saw was Mark Bruce’s modern dance retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Which is probably the only modern dance performance I can realistically get my boyfriend to come along to, seeing as it’s got Vampires in it. It was an absolutely stunning show – really atmospheric, with smoke, candlelight, and shadowy figures appearing suddenly out of the dimly lit corners of the room. Bruce Goddard – who played Dracula himself – completely blew me away with his performance, completely inhabiting the character, and even eliciting some laughs, and a little sympathy by the end. And I’ll never forget his eyes.
I also thought Kristin McGuire, who played Lucy Westenra, was excellent – particularly in the second half as she portrayed Lucy’s (SPOILER ALERT) change, following her visits from Dracula. To accompany the dancing, the music was pleasingly eclectic, with some proper old school music hall classics, and a soft-shoe shuffle to boot.
I couldn’t fault this show at all – even as someone who doesn’t know much about modern dance, I could completely follow the story (although admittedly, I am familiar with it), and the emotions portrayed were very real and the atmosphere was utterly thrilling – at several points during the show I felt something move across my neck – it was literally the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, as the creepy ambience took hold of me. I’d recommend it to everyone – although I think it’s completely sold out at Wilton’s, unfortunately, it is going to Oxford and Frome following its stint in London. See here for more details.
And if you can’t get to see Dracula, then do pay a visit to Wilton’s if you can, and have a drink in The Mahogany Bar – it’s a fantastic venue, and there’s nowhere quite like it.
Today’s quote is from Dracula, by Bram Stoker