The unfamiliar absence of children’s voices spoke volumes as I first entered the Sunderland Empire theatre one cold and dismal Wednesday afternoon. The usually elegant entrance was still asleep from the previous evenings entertainment.
Wearily I climbed the the short staircase leading to the Vesta Tilly bar where the patrons usually met for drinks before each show.The opulent mirrors, normally glistening in the splendour of the evening, were now a sorrowful sight of unpolished prisms and unreflective of their familiar beauty on this dowdy afternoon. Cheer up old gal, was my immediate reaction to the sombre start wandering casually over to the bar, where sparkling lights were beckoning.
An exotic array of alcohol enticingly displayed, dangled before my eyes. However in deep disappointment were inaccessible being imprisoned behind wrought iron bars.
BAR CLOSED boldly stated in ebony on a stark white board. Amusingly two delicate ladies, cheerfully dressed in mauve and navy, sipped a glass of white wine beneath the twinkling eyes of Vesta Tilly, who no doubt was in full approval. They were about to enjoy the occasion, however I did wonder where they had obtained the drink, but nothing was about to cramp their style.
A gentleman in black suit and tie stood authoritatively at the bar end observing the aged clientele, who slowly trickled in. A steady stream of grey waves, umbrellas and walking sticks melodiously made their way towards the nearest seats. Mutters of bad weather not fit to be out in unwittingly filled my ears, whilst another small gathering of maturity coldly spoke in their native tongue alien to their surroundings.
Unsympathetic music flowed into the cold ambiance dampening any traces of hospitality. The rising odour of forgotten fragrance commingled in dewy tones, reminding me of by gone days.
Glancing above at the rustic chain hanging from the grand chandelier added to the solitude, provoking thoughts of sadness.
Suddenly the bells began to ring beckoning the patrons to the auditorium: as the show was about to commence. Tides of unassuming visitors wearily made their way towards the exit of the Victorian Bar, many reminiscent of the era. No rush of gibbering of excitement only the youth can muster. No jumping and clapping of hands in delight as demonstrated honestly by the little ones, only the unhurried regimental momentum of disfigurement of the senior citizens filtering out of sight.
Observing the now desolate scene, of the diluted atmosphere where the old folks muttering drained into the distance I turned and witnessed the forsaken paper cartons of the modern world left behind for recycling.
Reminiscent of my last evening of entertainment at this beautiful theatre, within this very same room, where energy and vigour flowed along with alcohol and bright lights into the electrifying atmosphere, I asked myself, what possessed me in all my years of wisdom to refashion my routine? Oh, of course I remember now my old age.