Pros: The unconventional set up allows an intimate glimpse into the characters’ lives, while also providing plenty of opportunity for some excellent meta-theatrical comedy.
Cons: Not every storyline holds up under close scrutiny, and after you’ve figured out who’s who there’s not much left to engage with.
Locations for site-specific theatre come in many shapes, sizes, and levels of comfort, but it’s not often you come across luxury hotels being used for this purpose. This month though, theatre companies are going upscale, with The Hotel Plays running at The Langham Hotel, and I Do at the Hilton Docklands.
The piece is presented by Dante or Die theatre company, and played at the Almeida theatre last year. As the title suggest, I Do is all about that supposedly happiest day of our lives. The show consists of six scenes of last-minute wedding panic, concurrently played out in separate hotel rooms; thus justifying the venue choice. Divided into small groups, the audience progresses from one room to the next, while trying to piece together what exactly is going on. With a bride and groom who suffer from simultaneous cold feet, a best man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and a mysterious person named Kitty who seems to have disappeared, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
If the scenes themselves aren’t quite tense enough for your liking, there’s also plenty of pleasant awkwardness to be had from the practical implications of cramming ten people in a small space with one or two actors pretending to be alone. This fly on the wall approach allows for an intimacy that a more conventional theatre set up can’t bring, but Dante or Die also manage to extract some fine comedy from it. You’re free to sit on the beds for example, but that can possibly lead to finding yourself in the rather unique situation of two people making love on top you. It also gives you the opportunity to shamelessly look over the actors’ shoulders when they’re writing a note for example, or riffling through their personal belongings. It’s a rare chance to be a blatant snoop, a guilty pleasure we usually don’t get to indulge in quite so openly. The actors are not only admirably unflappable, steadfastly blanking their audience through all of this chaos; they are also completely believable, even under such painfully close scrutiny.
The story itself unfortunately is rather limited, which is a natural consequence of the necessity for the scenes to make sense in whatever order you see them in. Exits and entrances from one scene into the next are impeccably timed, and it’s clear that the whole production is put together with great attention to detail. I found my thoughts wandering occasionally though, simply because, once you have figured out how the pieces fit together, not every storyline has enough depth to demand your complete attention. A number of plot holes also makes a conspicuous appearance, including a case of mistaken identity farfetched enough to have been written by the Bard himself.
Overall though, I Do is an enjoyable piece that gives you a proper ‘slice of life’ experience, while allowing you to indulge your inner voyeur, if indeed you have one! The glitzy setting adds a luxuriousness that ties in nicely with the wedding-themed, first world issues, and the smoothly streamlined ushering takes all possible confusion about who goes where out of the equation. A slightly off-beat night out for those who want something different from their theatre experience every now and again but aren’t looking to be emotionally challenged.
Author: Chloe Moss
Director: Daphna Attias
Producer: Dante or Die
Box Office: 020 73594404
Booking Link: http://www.almeida.co.uk/event/i-do
Booking Until: 9th March 2014