'Heartbreak Hotel' review or 'And the hotel's theme is??'

Heartbreak Hotel
The Jetty, 9th June 2015 
Written for Time Out 



If you go down to the Jetty today you’ll find fortune tellers, magicians and the Heartbreak Hotel reception desk. It’ll probably take you a while to get inside (the hotel management need to work on their organisation skills) and, once you’re inside, you’ll wonder what exactly you’ve paid for. 

New theatre venue The Jetty (made up from some abandoned shipping containers, and home to Shunt’s last show ‘The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face’) is  devoted exclusively to immersive theatre. The only problem is, director Sam Curtis-Lindsay’s production is more like a tentative theatrical dip. The world outside the hotel is fairly realistic, but the world inside – designed by Carla Goodman – is a trippy and chaotic affair. As a ‘guest’, it’s very hard to know how to behave. 

The vaguest of storylines emerges in Zoe Wellman and Curtis-Lindsay’s see-sawing script. We have been signed up to a programme – ACHE – which seems to involve breaking our hearts in order to allow them to heal. As we traipse about the hotel, we spy other guests. There’s a young maid (Lucy Benson-Brown) who dares the programme leader (Jack Brown) to break her heart. In another room, we see a husband indulge in some sexy role-play and elsewhere we watch a young couple argue bitterly about the death of their daughter.  

In some rooms the design is bang-out bonkers:  beds are suspended upright, a corridor is filled with sand and a cupboard is crammed with quirky props. Other scenes, though, strain for some sort of realism. Sometimes we’re encouraged to stand back and watch passively and at other times we’re addressed directly by prim programme leaders. It’s utterly baffling. 

There’s also sound bleed (is that a stampede overhead?) and, unforgivably, scene bleed. As we’re shoved into the next room, the scene behind us kicks off once again. It’s all a bit of a shambles. Who’s up for a staycation?

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