The uniqueness of London Theater is renowned worldwide. The quality of the performances, the affordability of the seats, the sheer madness of quantity of theater within inner London. Modern auditoriums like the Bridge Theatre, the National and the Barbican in addition to the intensity of theatres on St. Martins Lane and Shaftesbury Avenue makes London the Theater capital of the world. And then there are the rituals of the Theatre visit itself. The glass of wine before the performance and the reserved glass prepaid for the intermission. But there is something else about London Theatre that I find utterly irresistible. Ice cream!
Ice cream during the intermission is an old tradition. Usually, the ice cream is made by Loseley. The ice cream company that seems to have served ice cream, to theatregoers since I was a child growing up in London. I find it a welcome pick-me up during a long play. Think “Long Day’s Journey into Night” (aptly named) and think of two intermissions and think ICE CREAM!
But why and where did it come from. For sure it doesn’t exist on Broadway. In old theatres where air conditioning is not part of the service, ice cream melts fast and gets messy. So what is the derivation. Could it be that it was a Victorian tradition? Maybe beginning at seaside resorts where Punch and Judy shows and music halls on Victorian piers provided children with fun and….ice cream! Pantomimes are children’s events so ice cream would obviously be around, but Pantomime is a Christmas tradition. And Christmas is hardly the time for an ice cream! Likely there is an Italian connection. 19th century immigrants bringing their ice cream traditions to outside shows and then inside as theaters became more weather existent. In Shakespeare’s time it certainly was not ice cream that kept the crowd on its feet. It was alcohol. Lots of it. Usually, beer or some ghastly form of it
I will be content with my glass of white wine at the intermission and a tub of Loseley to keep me alert for the second half!! Incidentally, vanilla is the most consumed of all the flavors.