All of the publicity material available on The Hotel implies that it is an immersive theatre experience. The content of the show is kept largely secret and the gorgeous 4749 Tanner Street space is unusual enough to lend itself to a fresh, interactive style of performance. On arrival, you are greeted by an in-character concierge and hotel manager and given a room key. It all feels very promising.
However, The Hotel is neither immersive nor, for the most part, interactive. The hotel setting is merely a framing device for two plays which could be staged almost anywhere. If the illusion of an actual hotel was maintained throughout the performances, or if the characters populating the hotel felt more connected to the plays, this would be an interesting use of the space. As it stands, however, this feels less like a cohesive performance piece and more like three separate productions that happen to coexist in the same building.
The only interactive part of the evening is also unfortunately the shortest. The entire audience are herded into the foyer of the building by the harried hotel manager and lobby boy. We are free to mingle, drink and interact with the “hotel staff”. The actors manage this aspect of the night admirably, chatting with their guests and performing their duties convincingly. Of particular note is Anais Alvarado as the hotel’s housekeeper, who gives a strong, amusing performance despite being saddled with some weak, borderline racist material (sure, the Colombian migrant deals cocaine, why not?).
The audience is then split between two rooms for the other performances. The first (for my group) is a dramatically abridged version of Faustus that, after the first couple of minutes, has no apparent relationship to the hotel setting. Indeed, for a show marketed as innovative, the majority of the audience’s time is spent sitting and watching text-based work. At roughly an hour, this portion of the night drags, as Marlowe’s work is reduced to a door-slamming farce filled with unpleasant female stereotypes. Faustus himself is positioned as a pretty-boy celebrity but this is irrelevant to the interpretation beyond costuming.
The next, more successful, performance is of Strindberg’s Creditors. Given that this play is set in a hotel, there is at least a more obvious link to the initial framing device but, again, it feels more like a gimmick than anything else. Still, this is a well-acted, entertaining hour and were this a standalone play, I may have found much to enjoy in it. However, my experience was definitely marred by it coming after the draining Faustus.
There is very little stylistic connection between the pieces and the only obvious thematic thread running through them is sexism. The women working in the hotel are dressed and treated as sex objects. The female characters in Faustus are alternately fetishised and disposable. Though Creditors is, in many ways, a commentary on male attitudes towards their female partners, that message is undercut by the casual misogyny that precedes it. Perhaps the directors’ plan had been to present troubling attitudes to women and then directly comment on that, but I was not convinced that any of this was intentional.
The Hotel presents itself as an ambitious, immersive project but the end result is curiously lacking in either quality. As three disparate plays, the pieces work to varying degrees. However, the show does not hang together as a whole and the company does not take full advantage of the many possibilities awarded to them by the space.