I haven’t been to see a show at a theatre since I was very young and I don’t properly remember it. Although I do remember having some cheesy memorabilia bought for me.
Even though I haven’t been for all those years, Bristol Hippodrome is steeped in history and a famous attraction in Bristol which has hosted many plays, musicals, shows, musicians, comedians etc. Wanting to know more about this fascinating place, we decided the tour was a good place to start…
The tour started in the foyer where we were greeted by our tour guide Andy. He began by explaining about the history and architecture of the building and how during the design, many Bristol related symbols were added into the decor mostly regarding its maritime history. The tour continued up the stairs and into the theatre hall.
From here we were lead around the back and onto the stage itself. Unfortunately, rehearsals and sound checks were being performed and we weren’t allowed to take pictures as this was happening. We reached the main stage and were told about its construction along with the engineering and thought which has gone into every last detail.
The theatre opened its doors on 16 December 1912 but a disastrous fire broke out and almost destroyed it in 1948. Parts of the Hippodrome had been rebuilt and changed due to this but luckily quite a lot is original.
From the main/back stage we were taken down to the orchestra pits and below the stage. Before the fire, a spring, provided different effects for the shows such as waterfalls, was under the stage floor. But after the fire, the whole basement floor was concreted over.
We were then shown the dressing rooms and up to the Fly Floor. A fly system or theatrical rigging system, is a system of lines, ropes, blocks, pulleys, counterweights and related devices within a theatre that enables a stage crew to quickly hoist components such as curtains, lights, scenery, stage effects and sometimes people in and out of view. We got to feel the weights that were used to counter the components while Andy explained how the system worked.
After the fly room we were taken down to the boxes and the middle circle. The front of the circle on this level, for me, gave the best overall view for a show. The seats however, were cramped and my knees touched the seat in front when I sat down.
We were told about various ghost sightings and other paranormal activity that had happened within the Hippodrome. I wouldn’t like to be the last one to lock up at night…
Finally, we went right to the top of the upper circle. If you’re uneasy with heights this would not be the place to sit. The slope down to the front of the balcony is very sharp and you constantly feel like you’re leaning forwards.
The tour lasted around 2 hours and was very informative. Andy, our guide was fantastic. He knew the Hippodrome inside out and could answer any questions with ease.
I would highly recommend going on the tour whether you’re a regular theatre goer or not.