|"Magical, mysterious, Victorian Science salon"|
by Coco Hall for remotegoat on 01/06/12
We didn't really know what to expect as we wandered around Waterloo looking for the Old Vic Tunnels. The tunnels turned out to be, as my companion had suggested, in the Leake Street graffiti tunnel, but are easy to miss if you don't know where they are, as are not signposted.
We entered the former British Rail office space through a long dark tunnel, with Victorian posters on the walls. The doors at the end opened into a roughly hewn spit-n-sawdust style bar area where a woman in Victorian garb was playing piano and singing.
We started exploring the vast space, which had been subdivided into mysterious rooms and ante-chambers, with Victorian characters walking round.
The Enlightenment Cafe is inspired by the Coffee Houses of the 17th century, Enlightenment Cafes (also known as Penny Universities) which were 'theatres of exchange' and social hubs for new thinking in science, philosophy, politics and arts - places where ideas came together and bubbled with excitement.
LAStheatre's Enlightenment Cafe is an immersive site specific event and performance in The Old Vic Tunnels' amazing space below the railway lines; a 21st century 'happening' combining the beauty of science with the power and imagination of immersive performance.
There are a series of salons to visit, you can learn the etiquette of fans, and have a close personal seminar experience in one of the atmospheric Victorian styled side rooms; we learnt about the discovery of sunspots from astronomer Stuart Clark, and the best poisons to use from chemist Katheryn Harkup, then marvelled at the 'fireologist' Claire Benson and her flame experiments. There are other salons too, with magical chemicals to discover the state of your humours and white coated pyschiatrists. There was speed soap-boxing for those with something to say.
There were discussions on Victorian scientific breakthroughs - including Dr George Merryweather's Tempest Prognosticator - a device to predict the weather using leeches and a shadow play about the Great Moon Hoax.
This was a really magical and fun evening. Science and Victoriana both being in vogue right now, combing the two was a mark of genius. I just wished for a little bit more of the steam-punk influence.
With a line-up of entertaining and approachable scientists-in-residence, Victorian strolling characters, plenty of things to do and take part in, and ice cream too(!) The Enlightenment Cafe will not only entertain you, but it will educate you as well!
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