saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
21st February 2017
Photography provided by Loose Tongue
Isn't it time you had a holiday? Set in working hotel Green Rooms, Hotel Europe is a site-specific production created by Isley Lynn and Philipp Ehmann which somehow manages to feel immersive despite all the drama consisting of pre-audio plays rather than live theatre. After checking in, you visit five different hotel rooms and listen to five different audio plays, all of which will give you cause to stop and reflect on the identity of the characters in each piece as well as your own identity. Some of the plays have a slight political bent to them, others less so.
It's difficult to describe each room fully because part of the joy of visiting Hotel Europe arises from the element of discovery. What I will reveal is that each room has its own character and tone and you are free to explore in complete privacy, checking into each room as a solo occupant. Without any other audience members or indeed ushers to share the space, it makes for a startling intimate experience, especially in case of Black Rock, where you can actually lie down on a bed in near darkness, with a spooky illumination rising up from the floor, listening to an audio play unfolding from all sides around you. It becomes a very personal ghost story. Will Alder's sound design is hugely intelligent, with the direction of sound creating as much tension as playwright Benedict Hudson's words themselves, as read aloud by Greg Ashton, Samantha Jones and Sam Jenkins-Shaw. Although this is an unsettling play, it's the one the room I wanted to revisit again and again because it's so well executed.
There's a temptation to play with every piece of Sorcha Corcoran and Geneva Brown's inviting set design given the free access given, so it requires a certain amount of discipline to settle into a spot and just listen to the audio unfold. In The Same Country, mother (Lin Sagovsky) and son (Tom Black) chat about their differing experiences of nationality in a very comfortable, easy exchange that reminds you so much of a familial chat that you feel almost instinctively inclined to tune out of it, potter around the room, help yourself to a snack and wander back into the conversation at a later point. To do so would of course be foolish as you would risk missing the finer details of Black's script, which serves to highlight certain quirks of the system and is a fascinating little self-contained tale. And the actors aren't actually there to respond to such an interruption in their conversation; everything you hear at Hotel Europe has been pre-recorded.
The logistics and planning behind the production are commendable. True, you are never going to manage to see all five rooms in one hour given the policy of no double occupancy, but you don't mind the wait. Co-directors David Ralf and Ehmann take advantage of the site's space by installing a guestbook in the corridor outside the five different rooms and by generally borrowing form the hotel's inmate identity, shaping what it already there rather than creating something brand new. This is never more apparent than in the use of the windows to naturally create a dim, grimy feeling in the room where Epifania is set. With the venue being a working hotel, many of the rooms have mirrors and these are positioned in a way that you frequently find yourself looking at your reflection, really appreciating that this is your story to experience and unravel on your own. The design for Epifania however compels you to sit in a corner starting at certain key objects as you mull over the experiences of the grandmother in Rafaella Marcus's story.
Listening to the woman (Harriet Dobby) in Gael Le Cornec's The Broken Clock read out loud the same letter that we clutch gives an immersive feel to the room and it almost feels like the woman and the man (Günalp Koçak) were once in the same hotel room and you're listening to an echo of that life. It's unnerving in a slightly different way to The Black Rock, but equally gripping. Whilst Milly Thomas's Midnight Express: A Dialogue perhaps is the least magical of all five plays, it provides a contrast to the other rooms and the variety is a big part of the production's charm.
However you voted in the referendum last summer, you'll find it a wrench to not remain in Hotel Europe. A brilliant concept brought to life gloriously, this piece combines the best of many different mediums to create something truly unique.
Hotel Europe opened on 20th February and runs until 26th February 2017 at Green Rooms.
Nearest tube station: Wood Green (Piccadilly)