Reviews Edinburgh Published 16 August 2015

The Last Hotel

Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh ⋄ 8th-12th August 2015

Beautiful depths.

Tim Bano

Here is any hotel. Here it is by any sea. Here its wood effect walls streaked with dust. Here its out of season darkness, its sense of doom.

Hear the sea and hear three people singing. Hear an English couple and an Irish woman. She has come here to die, they have come here to help her die.

Here is not where it begins. It begins noiselessly with the loneliness of the hotel porter as he scrubs a spot on the floor in his mismatching marigolds. On a shelf above the set the porter lives. Here is his own makeshift bedsitter. Old (stolen?) suitcases are lined up and the wall is covered in what, from a squinting spot in the stalls, look like the photographs of women (stolen?).

And the husband and the Irish woman talk, and the wife laments that she is never kissed anymore, and the husband sings in praise of the buffet, and the wife sings about the breath of air. And they rehearse for the suicide.

And the porter observes noiselessly.

//

When the libretto is not an ode of utter despair and heartrending hope, it is “coupons can be purchased at the reception desk to gain access to the internet.” There is only one floor, the Irish woman says: the 4th floor. There is only one room, she says: room 4. The comic and the absurd collide. Here is Enda Walsh: darkly funny and intensely poetic at once.

And the music? Minimalism in an Irish idiom. Post-minimalism that subtly, slowly shifts and swells and rarely subsides, with piano and string ostinatos underpinning in relentless rhythms. Ribbons of vocal melody–huge, surging intervals in the vocal lines–are kept aloft by needling strings and screaming flutes. Slippery detuned violins vie with the percussion’s rhythmical precision.

In the hotel is absolutely Walsh’s bathetic and lyrical voice, and absolutely Dennehy’s: complements and companions.

//

When it’s plumbed beautiful depths and has nowhere left to go, it turns to wonderful nonsense. The porter dances to rap, which drowns out Dennehy’s score, with spit rocketing out of his mouth as he moves. B*Witched plays and a tube of Pringles is thrown across the stage. Maybe he and room 4 have seen these circumstances before. Maybe seen this very story before. They are resigned to it.

And the absolute beauty of the opera is that while I’m crying here in the seat, the woman next to me is laughing and we enact our polar responses to the same sounds. It sustains and provokes both simultaneously. And here is a choice to make: which way to go? Which way to feel?

And here, by the sea, The Last Hotel and its guests contemplate death and, so doing, contemplate life. Here today…

This renewing // This belonging // This beginning // Will it give you rest?

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Tim Bano

Tim is a freelance arts writer and theatre critic. He writes regularly for Time Out, The Stage and other publications. He is co-creator of Pursued By A Bear, Exeunt Magazine's theatre podcast.

The Last Hotel Show Info


Directed by Enda Walsh

Written by Enda Walsh

Cast includes Robin Adams, Claudia Boyle, Katherine Manley, Mikel Murfi.

Original Music Donnacha Dennehy

Link http://www.eif.co.uk/2015/lasthotel#.VdGfNrJViko

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