Parties: When life imitates farce

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The Independent Online

Walking up London's Panton Street on the last Wednesday of January, one could have been forgiven for wondering which Hollywood star was gracing the Comedy Theatre. A 20-deep throng was jostling to get in as snappers poised like snipers outside. But Tinseltown's finest were nowhere to be seen: rather, this was the opening night of a revival of a Harold Pinter double-bill, and the expectation of seeing the ailing Nobel-winning playwright had created a sense of urgency.

Sadly, Pinter didn't show, but his wife, the author Lady Antonia Fraser, was there to shepherd a party of his friends and admirers – including Bob Geldof, Times Literary Supplement supremo Sir Peter Stothard, and Tory grandee Baron Maurice Saatchi – into the dress circle to watch The Lover and The Collection.

As soon as it was over, her guests headed to Charing Cross's Adam Street club for an after-show party that soon turned into something of a Pinteresque farce itself. The diminutive actress Emilia Fox spent her time searching for actor-husband Jared Harris in the cavernous underground rooms, before finally finding him tucked away by the bar. Then, moments after Baron Saatchi sloped off for supper, his wife Josephine Hart came bustling down the stairs searching for him. After a tour of the rooms, complaining about his impatience, she too departed.

A little more relaxed were Sir Bob, in a brown linen suit, and his elegant girlfriend Jeanne Marine, who stuck around for the canapés and bizarre Scrumptious Vodka cocktails, with a mix of ginger and lime.

The cast, led by Gina McKee and Timothy West, accompanied by his wife Prunella Scales, gradually drifted down, before retiring at around 11pm, leaving the paparazzi with just the Adam Street regulars left to snap.