Hotel at the ShedCultureTheatre
Polly Stenham’s gripping play Hotel takes place in a single room of a luxury holiday villa. It tells the story of a family who have escaped to a remote Kenyan island on vacation following a public scandal that has caught out the father sending lewd messages to a girl he met online. The ensuing public attention has resulted in the mother’s resignation from a high-profile political post.
The elegantly written first act relates with a biting sense of humour the tarnished relationship between the parents Vivienne and Robert (played by Hermoine Gulliford and Tom Beard), as well as the effects the scandal has had on their two teenage children Ralph and Frankie (Tom Rhys Harries and Shannon Tarbet). The plot thickens when Ralph reveals to his father the truth behind everything that has happened. But before he and Robert are able to make amends, the entire family find themselves held hostage by a pair of terrorists (Ntonga Mwanza and Susan Wokoma) who want revenge for the implications of a certain trades treaty signed by Vivienne that have taken their toll on the local economy and environment.
The second act is a frightening, action-packed enactment of a hostage situation, with guns fired, walls knocked down, fire burning, violence and blood, that thanks to a talented cast, skilled direction (Maria Aberg) and impressive pyrotechnics make you believe, despite the limitations of live theatre, in the unpleasant drama that unfolds before you. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Stenham’s play explores the relationship between act and consequence. Each character must deal with the aftermath of their decisions, however innocently they were made. First Robert’s “innocent” online flirtation, to Ralph’s childish prank, to Vivienne’s well-meaning signing of the treaty. Even Nala – the vengeful terrorist disguised as a hotel maid must deal with the consequences of her actions after her plan backfires. Gulliford, who is furnished with the play’s funniest lines deserves special mention as the sarcastic Vivienne in perhaps the show’s most memorable performance, but each member of the cast is wonderful.
Together with Aberg and the lighting and effects team they have created a thrilling piece of theatre that attests to the magic of live theatre, which when each element works together perfectly is just as efficient in suspending the audience’s belief as film.
Hotel is at the Shed until 2nd August 2014, for further information or to book visit here.