Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Drinks and drama at The W Hotel and the Harold Pinter Theatre

A serious joy of living in London is that there are so many utterly fabulous places a mere over-stuffed tube ride away from you.  One vows to spend evenings in glamourous bars and days pottering around educative art galleries, or take spontaeous trips to festivals or feted restaurants.  But then one gets a mortgage, faints on checking one's bank statement and never leaves the house.  I wander past gorgeous twinkly-lit windows inside which beautiful people sup champagne and think, I must go there some day.  Rarely do I ever get round to it.  Rarely, but not never.

The other night the Accidental Ally (remember her? She keeps me sane at work and is wonderfully up for accompanying me on many mad adventures...) and I went to the theatre, as we are occasionally wont to do.  We started out theatre-going with a trip to see 'The Little Dog Laughed' one night when there was nothing on at the cinema we fancied seeing.  (Bloody hilarious, Tamsin Greig was outstanding - a real show-stealer.)  And driven by a deep respect and awe for the utterly stylish and fabulous Kristen Scott-Thomas, we recently saw Betrayal which was also excellent.  Although on that occasion our last-minute sprint through Leicester Square, scattering gormless tourists, to make the first act did not ensure a particularly decorous start to that evening.

The other night however we had learnt our lesson, and thus pitched up with three-quarters of an hour to spare at the Harold Pinter Theatre.  The HPT was until recently called the Comedy Theatre, which we thought was a little prescriptive; probably wise to change the name to allow them to stage some totally unamusing plays as well.  As we skirted the eye-searingly bright M&M World (just what on earth can they cover 5 floors with?  And don't say M&Ms - I simply don't believe you can get that much mileage out of a tiny chocolate pebble), we caught sight of a large letter 'W' picked out in fat light bulbs which were slowly shifting colour.
'Ah, so that's where the W Hotel is.' said the Accidental Ally, 'Doesn't it look  pretty?'.  I murmured an assent before suggesting we add it to our ever-extending list of Things We Must Do.  'Well, do we have time to go now?  Quick glass of vino pre-theatre?'.  I needed no further encouragement.  We swept past the security guards - who actually smiled as they welcomed us, rather than curling their lip in the standard doorman reception - and entered a black, shiny lobby.  Save a sign towards a function room and a bank of lifts there was absolutely nothing in the hall.  No reception desk, no receptionist behind it, no 'How can I help you?'.  Apart from those which slide open to reveal a lift that looked like the inside of a padded cell decorated by Liberace, there were not even any discernible doors in the lobby.  We headed for a lift and rode up to the first floor, startled when the our elevator car shook, juddered, stalled then heaved itself upwards.  We were glad to emerge out into a silvery space, so mirrored it was hard to tell where the room actually ended.  A waterfall of disco-balls cascaded down from the ceiling directly in front of us.  We looked around ourselves and spotted an end to the mirrors.  Passing along a corridor with yet more mirrors on one side and low tables and chairs in front of shelves stuffed with pristine hardback books and plates with odd-looking faces on the other, we found ourselves in a glittering bar.

The clientele was decidedly moneyed, many of them of the Euro-smoothie persuasion.  Both business and pleasure seemed to be in full swing.  A thirty-something guy playing with his iPhone swivelled on a high stool up at the bar, a bottle of champagne and a single glass in front of him.  Suits clinked glasses of red wine, and tourists in jeans and jackets nudged their backpacks under their tables as their eyes scanned around the room.  The Ally and I took our own glasses of wine to one of the low tables and watched the black-clad wait-staff slide up and down the sleek corridors.  We gossiped about a certain A-list actor whom the Accidental Ally knew back in drama school, and she regaled me with tales from her own days of treading the boards.  When curtain up at the Harold Pinter Theatre was only ten minutes away we drained our glasses and I had a brief terrifying moment in the toilets, as the omnipresent mirrors struck yet again, transforming the washroom into a fun fair's House of Mirrors ride, trapping me within.  Fortunately the lift behaved itself on the way down, and we were soon back out in the whirl of Leicester Square, wishing our whistle-stop wine stop could have been longer.   

And then we went to the theatre to see 'Death And The Maiden'.  The play itself is a thought-provoking effort - a tale of human rights abuse in an anonymous Latin American country - and I left endlessly turning over what had really happened in my head.  The two male actors were splendid, even if I spent a large portion of the play trying to work out where I recognised them from (Doctor Who and Midsomer Murders apparently).  But Thandie Newton, making her West End debut...oh dear.  There were moments during the performance when I had to poke the Accidental Ally as Ms Newton's am-dram melodrama induced in her endless fits of inappropriate giggles.  Reviews have expressed a hope that Newton will grow into the role she plays as the performance continues its run, and maybe she will.  The disappointed (but much amused) Ally summed up as we headed home: "Tis a shame.  I was ready to be blown away by old Thandie but my own brother managed a better performance as a Scottish housewife in a school play aged 9."  We vowed that on our next theatre trip we would avoid the Hollywood A-listers...unless they happened to be hanging out in the W Hotel bar.  


  1. Sounds like a fun night...I envy you -I get out properly twice a year. Sigh.

  2. Oh dear MuMuGB, sounds like another fellow blogger drink or two might be needed...!

  3. Hey, blogger drinks all around, I'm coming back in January!

  4. Yay, London and your readers will be pleased to have you back, Steph! Maybe we need to plan some new year blogger drinks to ring in 2012...

  5. I have been trying to get my husband to go to the gigantic-disco-ball bar at the W for >6 months, but he get intimidated by the bouncers and lobby.

    Now I will force him to go- as by your description it is nothing to be bothered by!

    Also, saw Thandie Newton at a premiere of "Huge". Very pretty, but not impressed by her acting. Her American accent makes me cringe!

  6. Definitely drag him, Danielle. Once in it's not so pretentious and it's a great venue for people watching. Be brave!

    Thandie Newton is surprisingly uncomfortable on stage for one so feted on screen...Hollywood has a lot to answer for!


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