“Sunlight, moonlight, a confusion of pawprints. All silent, all still. Midnight, the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves’ birthday; the door of the solstice stands wide open; let them all sink through. See! Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.” (The Company of Wolves, by Angela Carter)
And with hands clasped, eyes closed and head bowing down she ends her story. The heads of her pyjama-clad audience come out tentatively from behind the safety of their blankets and teddy bears, and suddenly awoken from their reverie they break into applause. Not so much a gentle and polite clap but more a rapturous and ‘can’t thank you enough’ round of applause. For these listeners are not children. No, they are fully-grown adults…in pyjamas…amongst strangers…listening to fairytales…and most happily snuggled up with their old teddy bears. Welcome to the charming and spellbinding world of Bedtime Stories at 40 Winks Hotel.
This ‘happening’ is held each month at the 40 Winks Hotel. It has been hailed by the Sunday Times Travel magazine as one of the most amazing things to do in the world. The proprietor, David Carter, turns down the lights of his opulent abode and by consigning all the cushions and pillows of the house their last gravitational rights he creates an ambience for storytelling that really lets you forget the outside world and re-embrace your inner child. The dress code is strictly pyjamas and old-school boudoir glamour and the clinking fine china teacups are all consistently re-filled with gin cocktails.
Storytelling is the oldest and most present kind of theatre. From even before we could write, stories have been passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. The wealth of the human voice conjures up other worlds in the listener’s imagination and is something we take for granted as we grow up. But since when did we become too old for bedtime stories? It is a vital form of engagement and intimacy and is also a way of bringing the voices and folklore of our past to our present and future, something that Carter and event curator Rachel Rose Reid are both keen to explore.
Tonight we are being told the stories from ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter. They are reworks of old fairy tales that embrace a more sinister and erotic nature. Cat Weatherill tells ‘The lady of the house of love’ (Sleeping Beauty with vampires), employing dramatic lighting and audience interaction, whilst Sally Pomme Clayton takes the other room with ‘The company of wolves’ (A coming of age ‘Red Riding Hood’) in total darkness, using only noises and shadow puppetry as her tools of invocation. Both are different yet successful in getting an emotional response from their audience. They can make you laugh and cry at the flick of a switch such is the depth of their emotional palette. David is in fact on hand with a box of tissues, should they be required.
You don’t notice the time going by at 40 Winks. So disarming is the atmosphere that Bedtime Stories regular, Jared, even decided to ‘pop’ the question to his girlfriend Marian that very night. She of course said yes to the sheer exultation of the crowd.
But by now the night was coming to an end and nobody wanted to go home, and sadly to home and bed we went. Some even defiantly left 40 Winks still in their pyjamas so that the spell may not quite be broken.
For more information on 40 Winks and the Bedtime Stories event, please visit their web-site ___________________________________________________________________
NEXT WEEK ON LONDON INSIGHT:
Charles Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop