Ballet in Notting Hill has a deep rich history and has attracted a huge array of stars into the area, including the iconic Audrey Hepburn. The focus and location for this cultural evolution is the old Mercury Theatre on Ladbroke Road, two minutes’ walk from Notting Hill Gate tube station.
The theatre (pic right) opened in 1933 by playwright Ashely Dukes for the staging of one of his new plays. At this time, he was married to the ballet innovator, Marie Rambert, who quickly established the world famous Ballet Rambert dance company here. Originally built in 1851 the Mercury Theatre was eventually altered to cater for its new cultural tenants and can house about 140 theatre and dance fans. It is still the first ever home in the UK of a permanent ballet company.
Audrey Hepburn moved to London from Amsterdam in 1948 specifically to take up a ballet scholarship under Marie Rambert’s tutelage and began her studies in Notting Hill. The scholarship only provisioned for the lesson cost and not for rent and food, and during post-war Britain still under rationing, Audrey almost become totally destitute, until Marie Rambert took her into her own home, recognising her enormous talent needed nurturing.
She would practice in the freezing cold hall with a small coal fire heating the building and a decrepit old piano providing musical accompaniment. This hardship gave Audrey real drive which soon led to stage performances in the West End which in turn led to the beginning of a glittering and iconic film career.
The theatre closed in 1987 and is now a privately-owned house but it must be said like much of Notting Hill, just sat minutes off Portobello Road, there are many sites that go very much unnoticed by the huge number of tourists into the area, but contain such a fascinating and culturally gilded history.
♦ Jordan Pattison works part time as a local tour guide who will be writing regular stories for you about the history of Notting Hill. He is really engaging and has incredible stories to tell about the area and the tours are free. Here are some of his great reviews … tripadvisor and you can book here … seenottinghill