Electric Hotel @ Bristol Harbourside, Bristol

cast list
Neil Callaghan, Gavin Coward, Valentina Golfieri, Kate Jackson, Michela Meazza, Ryen Perkins-Gangnes, Margarita Zafrilla Olayo

directed by
David Rosenberg
Electric Hotel is one of the main attractions at this year’s Bristol MayFest.

At a specially built four storey hotel on the harbourside audiences are invited to watch events going on behind the floor-to-ceiling windows that cover the front of the building while listening in through wireless headphones.

The production sets out to explore the ‘unexpected synchronicity between individuals in their individual spaces,’ using the mediums of dance and sound.
Director David Rosenberg and choreographer Frauke Requardt use the various spaces within the hotel to good effect. In each room a performer carries out their own set of moves and actions independantly, with everyone occasionally synchronising.

It’s an intriguing idea, but overall one that’s disappointing as there is a distinct lack of narrative and clarity in the piece. Combined with a soon tiresome sense of repetition, this results in a production that is confusing and, at times, incomprehensible.

Part of the problem is that there are too many different elements in play and it’s often easy to miss what’s going on. The rapid changes in focus between the different rooms and characters causes problems in knowing quite where one should be looking next. In addition to this, as the piece progresses, it begins to gravitate away from its original set-up. The characters begin jumping between floors and running through walls, going in one door and out of another; this is disorientating rather than exciting.

Having said all that, it’s worth noting that on a technical level this production is a triumph. Designer Brkur Jnsson has created a fantastically realistic looking hotel using stripped-down shipping containers as the skeleton; the whole structure can be taken apart and transported around the country. Composers and sound designers, Ben and Max Ringham, have produced a compelling soundtrack of both music and sound effects, the latter of which include everything from squelching flip-flops to the rubbing of motor-cycle leathers. In addition to this, their method of recording, using microphones in a dummy head complete with ears, accurately creates an absorbing surround-sound effect.

Although this attempt at viewing of supposedly private moments quite literally through the fourth wall in a ‘voyeuristic’ style of theatre, is a merited one, especially in a society obsessed with celebrity, where nothing is deemed too personal to expose and explore, it falls short of being truly ground-breaking theatre. Fans of modern dance will no doubt enjoy aspects of the performance – the use of movement is quite striking – but for the wider audience, drawn to Electric Hotel out of sheer curiosity, the result is rather underwhelming. While ‘voyeuristic theatre’ and specially constructed performance spaces are, in theory, exciting and forward-looking, in order for a project like this to be really successful, it requires more focus and narrative confidence than this provides.

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