When you're invited to a special press day in the Capitol for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, you might be put off by a bootcamp programme that includes fashion, beauty and fitness. But there's also breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea in the schedule. And face it, you're in dire need of a day away from the computer screen. And today the Capitol is located in a swanky suite at the Soho Hotel in central London.
First thing you see when you walk in is a tiered tray of branded cupcakes surrounded by pastries - it's all very promising already. Cup of coffee in hand, you wander around looking for another male in the room (there are a precious few so you're not alone), then discover the Lionsgate press team Jess and Lorna dolled up like Effie with glammed-up faces, gigantic wigs and vertiginous heels. The pastries taste great until you start listening to the almost pathologically fit workout-wear designer to the stars talking about the high-tech outfits she made for the film (and for superfit clients like Madonna and Gwyneth). The brand is Lucas Hugh, and you know you could never afford any of it. But you want it anyway.
Continuing in fashion mode, you try on a range of bling and admire a range of wacky shoes and gowns in the style of Capitol City fashionistas. Nothing would ever fit you, because you're a full-sized man. And far from Effie or (wishful thinking) Finnick, you know that the Hunger Games character you most resemble is actually President Snow. The beauty section also includes a chance to have your face layered with glitter, but you pass on that because trays of lunch delicacies have arrived, and someone has replaced the looping Catching Fire trailer with the original Hunger Games movie, which we all become glued to like zombies. Because it's actually rather good.
After lunch it's fitness time, and we meet strength coach James, who explains that he will be putting 12 of us through our paces in a 12-week training programme leading up to a mock Hunger Games event right before the 11th November world premiere of Catching Fire in London. You are tempted to throw your hat in the ring. Even though James (below with Lorna) is obscenely healthy, he seems like a nice guy who wouldn't hurt you too much.
When I ask whether anyone will actually die in these mock games, everyone laughs. But I sense a sinister tone in the air, as if there's a secret plan afoot to purge the ranks of London's film critic population. Well, The Independent on Sunday has just axed its entire arts critic line-up. Doom is in the air. I'd better get training....