Sunday, May 23, 2010

electric hotel

When you book to see open-air theatre in the UK in May, you do so with a huge degree of trepidation – and certainly work on the basis of waterproofs/blankets/hot toddies and the like. In the event, Moira+I went to see “Electric Hotel” last night at the harbourside in Bristol (part of this year’s “Mayfest”) on a perfect, balmy evening and watched the performance supping the odd glass of chilled Chardonnay.
The hotel building (yes!) had been (very convincingly) erected on the harbourside and there was a full house for yesterday’s performance. It’s difficult to try to set the scene but, here goes: the four-storey set comprised a bar (available to the audience!) at ground floor, three hotel bedrooms and an internal staircase at first floor, one of the bedrooms plus corridor and staircase at second floor and a restaurant and swimming pool on the third floor – with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the audience at all levels. The audience is equipped with headphones to eavesdrop on the internal spaces of the building (together with music and other sound-effects).
It’s essentially a performance through dance and sound; it’s very cleverly choreographed and one very quickly realises that the corridor on the second floor is the corridor outside the bedrooms depicted on the first floor of the set – so that when someone enters one of the rooms from the corridor-side (2nd floor), they immediately appear in a hotel bedroom (1st floor). Are you still with me (actors double up to play duplicate characters)?
The “Mayfest” blurb described it as a “lonely, bizarre and beautiful spectacle” and “sitting on the outside looking, the audience snatches glimpses of the do-not-disturb lives unfolding behind the windows”. Much of the action is repeated several times (with slight adjustments to suit the evolving story) – as if the whole performance was on a loop.
I can’t say that I entirely understood the storyline, but I honestly don’t think this mattered.
An exciting and visually stimulating evening.
Photo: a montage of images taken during the course of last night’s performance.
PS: I’ve just read Fiona Sturges’s less-than-complementary review in “The Independent” (two-star review – “voyeurism is a well-worn topic these days, and this show offers little in the way of enlightenment”). Hey ho, everyone’s entitled to their own thoughts!
PPS: suggest you click on the Arnolfini website and then watch the brief video clip.

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