When you enter Birmingham Hippodrome before a performance it’s an exciting time, isn’t it!? You manoeuvre your way around the hustle and bustle, grab a programme, order your interval drinks and before you know it you are called to your seats. In amongst the excitement it’s easy to miss the little details that make Birmingham Hippodrome the world class venue it is. Dotted around the foyers, rooms and corridors are many interesting bits and pieces that you can easily miss. Let’s take a look at some of the fascinating features that decorate our vast foyers…
As you enter through the main entrance and make your way up the stairs you will probably notice a plinth holding two bronze ballet dancers frozen in a duet. Some of you ballet buffs will most likely recognise the scene from David Bintley’s production of Hobson’s Choice performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet, which is actually returning to Birmingham Hippodrome in February of next year. Sculptor, Derek Skinner created the piece in 2003 to commemorate the 25 years that Francis C.Graves O.B.E was a director of Birmingham Hippodrome. Be sure to stop and take the time to take notice of the wonderful detail in this piece and the facial expressions of the dancers as they strike their pose. The statuette was modelled on two BRB company members, Leticia Muller and Michael O’Hare.
As you make your way through the foyer, no matter where you may be seated, you can’t miss the dominating hanging lantern that stretches through the entire height of the entrance space; from the top level of the Circle to the bottom of the Stalls. The large lantern is called Light Column and was created exclusively for Birmingham Hippodrome in 2005 by artist, Liz Rideal. The sculpture hangs a colossal 11 metres in length and is made up of sixteen separate component boxes. Eight of the boxes feature mirrors, designed to make you- the spectator- the star of the show and reflect the individuality of both performers and audience members. So next time you imagine yourself gracing our stage, take a look in one of the mirrors on the lantern for good luck- who knows where it might lead!?
If you take a closer look at the lantern (when you’re not checking your make-up) you may notice that the piece actually features the same draped fabric effect that is featured on the theatre’s outer glass wall in Inge Street. This glass wall stretches the entire left hand side of the foyer as you make your way into the auditorium. With this effect featuring on every glass pane in the window the piece, as a whole, gives the impression of a gigantic see-through show curtain, waiting to be risen and displaying the street beyond…who is that walking past? What character could they be on stage? It’s really quite a fun game to play!
Sitting pretty next to the large window you will see a collection of costumes from various Birmingham Royal Ballet performances. These costumes were added to the foyer as part of the company’s 20th anniversary celebration in 2010, where they have remained ever since. The 20th anniversary festivities culminated in a Royal Gala at the theatre attended by Prince Charles and the costumes are a great reminder of this special occasion. Providing a fascinating close up look at the detail that goes into BRB costumes, the pieces are taken from various ballets including Arthur Parts 1 & 2- look out for the gigantic and looming black wire horse, scary but stunning!
Dotted in and around the foyers, and on all levels, are our glass cabinets. The cabinets are designed to accommodate various exhibitions of artwork and items of interest- of which we have plenty! Currently the cabinets house a fantastically imaginative and sculptural artwork from local illustrator, Sam Pierpoint. Entitled A Cinderella Story, the various cabinets host snapshots from the famous fairytale created from a wide variety of materials including cardboard, crepe papers, buttons, felt and foils. Follow the entire Cinderella saga by starting at the bottom stalls level and working your way up to the top of the circle, just make sure you don’t get too wrapped up and forget to go back to your seat in the interval!
Once you have taken your seat in the auditorium, or during the interval, you will most probably be looking at one of the largest pieces of public art in a theatre! Our stunning safety curtain, which was painted by Balraj Khanna, is called Astral Dance. Balraj spent weeks painting the curtain which was fully stretched out across our stage whilst building work was taking place around him during the redevelopment ten years ago. For more info on Balraj’s piece and other artwork’s around the theatre you can visit our website.
Once the curtain has come down, or before it has risen, take the time to investigate the interesting exhibits and public art that grace our foyers and corridors…there are lots more to find and explore!