A Brief Introduction to London Nightlife

It is very late on Saturday night here at Sorbonne House in the still surprisingly affluent neighborhood of South Kensington, London, England. I am sitting in the TV/Study room listening to Fleet Foxes. Jae is on a Skype call. Caleb is absolutely zoning into a BBC broadcast of Mumford & Sons’ recent Glastonbury headlining performance. I adore this kind of shared personal time. All is peaceful, quiet and content, in our own distinct personal realms, and after three years working together very closely, it’s so refreshing to truly feel a definite comfort sharing this time with each other.

We’re coming upon the conclusion of our first weekend together in London, and there is, naturally, much to process.

As a young man coming of age during a time when diversionary activities of the most hedonistic nature are increasingly accessible, I’ve been very mindful of how I choose to spend my free time. I’ve considered this more than ever as of late because of the extensive free time I’ve had at home near Manhattan and these several free days here before classes begin at LAMDA.

To cease my habitual beating around the bush, I’ve gone “clubbing,” and please understand how much I grimace at such a term for action. “Clubbing.” To my fairly sensitive disposition, such a word brings to mind two wholly disgraceful images:

  1. Throngs of rancidly perfumed, sweaty heterosexuals “grinding” to something called ‘Avicii’ while consuming overpriced juice disguised as “a cocktail." 
  2. The inhumane abuse of seals. 

After this weekend, I experienced so much of the former that I nearly wished I had instead been submitted to the latter.

I kid. In case my present tone falls on deaf ears, please understand that I am practicing a bit of the olde English 'cheekiness’ I’ve begun to pick up on since arriving four days ago. How is my driving? If you’re not smirking or, perhaps, giggling, don’t worry. My tuition has me here until May. I’ll learn to be as dry and intoxicating as the £12 martini I bought on Friday night (and that’s setting the bar quite low).

Now, clubs astonish me. I’ve been to five in total—one in Boston my freshman year, two in Manhattan over winter break, and two in London this past weekend. I haven’t wholly enjoyed my time at any of them, and I have surrendered to the struggle to understand why. Much to my surprise and sometimes to the surprise of those around me, I really like dancing—and very, very intensely, at that. The music that tends to get play on club dance floors happens be much of the music I play on my unlimited Spotify premium account, and you can fact check such an admission since I decidedly ignored Spotify’s offer to not post my "now listening to” activity on Facebook. Social media keeps us all a bit more honest, does it not?

While i apparently enjoy dancing, I can never shake the visceral effect of hundreds of bodies primed for some kind of sexual satisfaction hovering—bouncing, even—so near to me. It’s predatorial. I’ve found “the club” to more often exist as a meat market than dance floor-centric playground for adults. Honestly, neither interests me much, but the former is often repulsive and offensive!

In case you cannot tell, I don’t much enjoy “clubbing,” in theory or practice.

The club I visited in Boston my freshman year was terrible. The clubs I visited in Manhattan over winter break were terrifying. The clubs I visited in London were, well, novel enough to distract from their utter ridiculousness, and I promised myself I would enjoy dancing with my friends more than I gawked and wept at the fall of man as it occurred around me.

The first club was a six-split-level behemoth very seriously called the “Piccadilly Institute” located in the Piccadilly Circus district, a lurid place that inspired less than fond reminiscences of Times Square. On each split level of the “Institute” is a unique 'club experience.’ So, instead of one hilariously named hedonistic hell-on-earth, there were SIX—UNDER ONE ROOF—complete with their own aesthetics, DJs, bars, and patronage. Let me tell you about some of them!

  • CHAMBER had the aesthetic of Kelly Clarkson’s “Behind These Hazel Eyes” video and played all the latest and greatest pop hits—I think the DJ spun Pitbull & Ke$ha’s latest #1 hit “Timber” a grand total of four times over the course of the night! At one point, Sarah and I lost Christian amidst a sea of older men, but I’m sure he made out just fine. 
  • DECADIA played those seven 90s house songs you know and love and had this fabulous rubix cube-inspired floor that flashed in three very exciting patterns! Most Decadia dwellers did not seem to be there to dance much, but rather alternately point at the floor and ogle my American girl friends.
  • CLINIC was my favorite mostly because it made the least sense. To begin with, its name is “Clinic,” which is the closest a Piccadilly room name comes to the dizzying heights cleared by the names of the world’s worst gay clubs. When you ascend the stairs into “Clinic,” you find yourself standing before a white wall sporting many faint eyeballs—perhaps to suggest that I will be watched while I am inside “Clinic"—genius! Venture a little further in and discover a dozen white mannequins (male and female) hanging from the ceiling! The "Institute” probably has some genius reasoning behind this particular choice, but I don’t think I will learn that until at earliest mid-way through my study abroad experience. The most exciting feature of “Clinic” awaits you far into the dance floor—raised stages upon which one can show off their finest moves as no one watches! I found the raised stages to be offer fascinating social experiments. At one point, Christian, Sarah, and I climbed onto one to shake our respective asses, and we were joined by a group of ambiguously ethic strangers who proceeded to dance in the same small, rail-enclosed space as us without once acknowledging our presence! Is this some sort of English rule of club etiquette I do not yet know? Nevermind, the DJ is playing a deep house remix of Nicki Minaj’s “Starships,” and I am just so excited to be here!!!

Our experience at the “Institute” was an exhilarating primer in the British club experience. I failed to mention that all nine of us LAMDA students-to-be attended both club outings, which is funny enough to consider: “Hello English club patrons! We are nine American actors with varying temperaments and we’re excited to be here in your country so we’re going to dance very aggressively now! Some of us don’t want to be at a club much but came for the group experience! We’re still jet lagged, scared, and confused, but we sure know how to two-step and lip sync!”

This modus operandi carried us to our Saturday night outing as well. We didn’t plan on winding up at another club, but after visiting several closed pubs, we defaulted on an inter-dependence that returned us to Piccadilly Circus. We really tried to resist the pull of the club this time. Most of us wanted a drink, some of us wanted to save money, and Jae wanted Chinese Food. We wandered for a while around what was presumably Chinatown looking for the something to satisfy the aforementioned disparate desires before all nine of us almost got in a fight about wasting time, lacking a destination, and being nine different people who are still a little tired and culture shocked. Before we could really perfect a nine-part harmony on the words, “what’s the plan,” we encountered a most magical creature called a promoter.

You may know of club promoters. They are odd, motivated, often frisky and like to make offers that sound like, “I can get you five girls in for free if you get rid of two of your male party members.”

Well, we found one who made us an offer regarding a club called “Grace,” which would allow the party of nine to remain intact. We took said offer and found “Grace,” which was filled with mostly middle-aged men and had only one room with a lot of crazy lighting that seemed surprisingly in-sync with each each minute musical movement of every song. There was also fog!

Perhaps we had wandered and bickered far too long because after a little over an hour, some Red Hot Chili Peppers song played, we all got very into it (“American rock music, yeah!”), and then the club was closed for the night.

We walked 40 minutes back to our dorm house and climbed the stairs up to the kitchen. Christian made pasta for all hungry hearts. I ate greek yogurt and granola. Much Beyoncé was played. A jolly good time was had by all—and without a cover charge!

We start classes at LAMDA this week, so the clubbing shall (thankfully, hopefully) cease for the time being. The impromptu kitchen gatherings and late nights co-existing in the TV/Study room shall (thankfully, hopefully) persist.