Last week I spent an evening in Liverpool watching the Lodestar Theatre Company production of Romeo and Juliet, part of the Liverpool Shakespeare Festival. It was a wonderful performance, with evocative AV backdrops, rich music and an energetic cast, the high spot for me probably Juliet’s effervescent energy as she covered the stage with 14 year old tomboy-ish exuberance.
For the night, due to an overbooked hotel elsewhere, I ended up at the Adelphi Hotel, right in the heart of Liverpool, only a hundred yards from Lime Street Station and the St George’s Hall, where the performance was staged.
The Adelphi seems like an hotel from a different age, a huge Victorian edifice in the heart of Liverpool city centre. The perhaps more imposing station hotel has been converted into student accommodation, so now the Adelphi stands alone in the centre jostling with the glass and neon Holiday Inn and Travelodge for station travellers, still representing tradition in an age of automatic check-in and Lego-kit furnishing.
Like an ageing aunt, remembering her dancing days, bright lipstick slightly awry, the Adelphi is clearly struggling to maintain its dignity assailed by the recession and narrowing margins from without, crumbling masonry and cast-iron radiators within, and the occasional onslaught of amiable drunks passing on their way from pub to pub.
Sometimes it seems that, like the crooked lipstick, things slip: three times dragging my suitcase up and down to and from my sixth floor room until my keycard was properly programmed (yes electronic keys, signs of the 21st century), the water taps that only just work and never gave a hot shower, or the lifts that seemed to constantly deliver the same packed group of pensioners up to the sixth floor when they really wanted to get down to the ground. But, like the firmly grasped handbag, hat and Sunday gloves, signs of a different standard of service, vast veneer wooden wardrobe and dressing table, brocade-covered arm chairs, a real teapot and cup and saucers with the (electric) kettle, and of course a room-service menu that includes “roast of the day”.
At breakfast it feels like a post-apocalyptic science-fiction set where in the aftermath of 1950s atomic testing all conception ceased and so now, from wall to wall, the room is filled with septuagenarians eating unending supplies of bacon, fried eggs and toasted crumpets, with the only under-60 faces the serving staff from Eastern Europe, which has evidently been spared the mass impotence of the West.
But, did you notice, in an age of croissants, yogurt and Danish pasties – crumpets, yes real crumpets for breakfast – a trace of the Empire still survives in Liverpool L1.
So like the ageing aunt, whose occasional quirks and impatience you forgive, overlooking her inexpert makeup, for the memory of war-time childhood and rock-and-roll romances, so with the Adelphi, I forgive its dodgy plumbing and erratic lift, for the glimpse of a style and a world that is past and will soon be gone for ever.
And in days to come, in some hotel room of plastic, steel and wine-bar-like sheen, I will dream of my night at the Adelphi.