Tag Archives: Ice Cream

London Theatre Pietro Place Peter Jones


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. 

Venice, Taparelli and Ice Cream

I guess, for me it all started with a visit to the Carnival in Venice.  February 2020.  I remember the spectacle. I had never really seen anything like it.  A piazza that looked more like a show, colors and masks and people parading around, posing and becoming photo opportunities for the tourists and the casual travelers.  Centuries condensed into a parade and a piazza turned into a Broadway show.  Leaving there, I remember thinking how extraordinary it was to have seen this event.  For all the years I had traveled to Venice, I had just missed it.  And as we drove out of Venice heading north, I remember thinking I had witnessed something special.  And then, Covid.  

Italy first, shut down and slowly this phenomenon engulfed all of Europe.  That was 2 years ago.  Now, I am heading back to Carnival and Italy to meet our staff and clients.  The suppliers who have just about survived these past 2 years with no business.  Some never made it.  Never to reopen.  For most of us, we are back and I cannot wait to hear the sounds of the Vaporetti, the lapping of water of the gondolier jetties and the winter light in beautiful Venice.  This is where it all began for me.  The windows closed. The doors shut. And now, they’re opening again.

Someone once asked me what I loved about Italy.  Was it the Forum, St. Peter’s, the Duomo, the Basilica in San Marco, the food, the wine, etc.?  The wonder of Italy is that the list is endless.  But it remined me of a funny story.  My niece lives in Rome.  She had bumped into Hugh Grant, the English actor, at a well-known bar and she had asked him what he loved most about Italy.  He paused and then said, “the beautiful darkness that hotel rooms afford me during the day!”  What he was referring to are the blinds in the rooms and in every house, apartment and shop. The Taparelli as they are called.  A moving curtain of metal slats that gives you utter privacy and solace from the sunshine and light. The bliss of absolute darkness in the afternoon for a snooze before an evening venture around the streets of Rome or Venice. Not, I hasten to say, venetian blinds.  A whole different story and a whole different century! And nowhere near as effective!! 

Taparella means a conveyor belt.  Sliding, rolling slats that interlock and offer perfect darkness. Operated electrically or on a rope-pull. They are one of the great inventions of Italia.  I always think of that great line in Life of Brian.  “What have you Romans done for us lately!  Roads, heating, bridges, sanitation, aqueducts, baths, and…Taparelli!”

Ice Cream in the London Theater

Ice Cream in the London Theater

It’s not just a matter of –re or –er, though for some it’s enough to start a polite brawl,  if you love theatre you’re sure to have an opinion about Broadway vs. West End.  An argument for why London theatre is superior, an argument which has no rebuttal, is a simple one:  Broadway doesn’t have ice cream in the auditorium. The West End theatres do.

Theatre in London, despite prevailing stereotypes, is not a posh affair.  It feels much like a sporting event at half-time – vendors with ice cream on trays and everyone clamoring for the elusive strawberry cup. My choice, always vanilla. Losely Ice Cream is the crowd favorite. The utensil? The best wooden tiny spoon available, of course!  And let’s not forget the wine with your name on it, that you’ve pre-paid at the beginning of the show. It is why I simply cannot abide no intermission theatre!

To my mind, the key element of a play is an intermission glass of wine (probably put you to sleep) and then an intermission ice cream cup (definitely keep you up) to see the rest of the play. The downside of taking your ice cream with you to your seat, is that when the lights go down, there’s a fairly good chance that you might miss your mouth. And ice cream does drip after all! Still it keeps you on your toes, and more importantly keeps you awake during dreary performances. In addition, Ice Cream keeps you deliciously satiated during uplifting performances.  I’ve drifted off. It’s happened to me, it will happen to you. It’s happened in London and New York – and usually it is measured by the quality of the performance. Feeling sleepy? Bad play. Definitely need ice cream.

The plays come and go – some spectacular, others forgettable. But what never disappoints, is the ice cream. The history of ice cream in the theatre is up for debate, it was certainly introduced sometime toward the end of the 19th century and almost certainly by an Italian, or some say a Swiss Italian. Talking of posh affairs, it was actually introduced to the Royal Opera House as late as 1967.

Quite recently I saw an Arthur Miller play in London and had seats on the stage. The seats were fabulous, the play “View from the Bridge,” was amazing. But there was no intermission AND ice cream was barred from the stage seating. As much as I loved the performances, I couldn’t recommend it!