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Review: Voyeuristic and intense, The Hotel Plays cause a stir at the Langham

File 13340

The atmosphere of the Hotel Plays is of almost suffocating intensity. You smell the perfume and watch as heated arguments play out between the bedsheets and the dressing table. Claustrophobic, stifling; you inhale it all, intriguing and intrusive at the same time, like poking around in the dark corners of other people's lives.

 

Theatre company Defibrillator returns this year with Tennessee Williams' Hotel Plays, following last year's success. This time the setting is the bedrooms of the sophisticated Langham Hotel. Over the course of an hour and a half you delve into private lives, loves and struggles in three one act plays from the 50s, 70s and 80s.

 

The Pink Bedroom

In a role originally created for Greta Garbo, Helen George plays a young woman kept in a pink bedroom for eight years by her married lover.

The room is aglow with its coral-pink shades. There's the ticking of a compact clock on the bedside table and the sound of 50s tunes from the bathroom. There's perfume in the air. The audience is hunched up on benches against the back wall waiting for the scene to begin, and when it does the actors are so close you could almost feel their breath.

The setting goes a long way to make this play the success it is. George is doll-like, a little wooden but compelling as the kept woman; her emotions intensified by the small space. Gyuri Sarossy plays the cheating lover, exhausted by his own lies and facing a stony realisation about his double life.

 

Green Eyes

A pair of newlyweds wake in a New Orleans hotel room and try to piece together the events of the the night before. The curtains are drawn to shut out the light and things turn dark with suspicions of infidelity and violence. At times uncomfortably physical, Aisling Loftus and Gethin Anthony give powerful performances, blurring the lines between anger and desire.

Even if you sleep through the other plays (which you couldn't, at least not on those benches) Green Eyes is the one to watch. The deep southern accents falter a little, but the tension builds to make this one act cruelly captivating.

 

Sunburst

An old woman slumps at her dressing table, head resting heavily on one arm. Her glamour faded, retired actress Miss Sails waits out her days in her hotel suite. But her one priceless possession, her sunburst diamond, has become the prize target of two young tricksters.

What follows is a near farcical hostage situation. At times it became hard to follow the logic behind the story but Carol Macready's is convincing as the faded star with a feisty streak, fending off two conniving young men (Daniel Ings, Jack Mann). The now-familiar waiter, Charlie (Linden Walcott-Burton) makes a reappearance as the comic interlude to link the three plays.

 

Tennessee Williams spent much of his later years in hotel rooms and eventually died in the Elysee Hotel in New York. He was familiar with dark deeds, unease and trickery that go on within the bedroom walls. But these short plays bring the troubles of the outside world in, and in this sense what happens in the hotel suite is just the distillation of the wider story.

 

Set in the opulent rooms of the Langham, The Hotel Plays leave you with a feeling of unease that's hard to shake. The sets are meticulously planned - even the air smells different in each room - and it's this permeating sense that sticks with you, even after the actors have left the room. The Hotel Plays are an example of immersive theatre done with style and sophistication.

 

The Hotel Plays are on at The Langham Hotel until the 8th March, more information here.