Pros: Hotel For Criminals is a weird and wonderful show, providing audiences with the perfect blend of discomfort and thrill.
Cons: Even after piecing together every scene I still could not explain the show’s exact plot, which may excite some but infuriate others.
Hotel For Criminals is a prime example of surrealist theatre, combining a Gothic take on the avant garde with beautiful, operatic music. The show has a loose but interesting narrative, in which snippets of action are woven together with intermittent buzzing sounds denoting scene changes.
From the moment you reach the top of the stairs to the New Wimbledon Studio, you are plunged into director Patrick Kennedy’s take on the strange, pre-war Parisian scene described in Richard Foreman’s book. The show’s dark imagery is reflected in the writing etched on the stage walls, the dim lights scattered around and the string used to cordon off the edge of the stage as if to say ‘do not enter’.
The main form of storytelling is provided through omnipresent narration as though from above. The main character, the illusive Fantomas, leads the merry band of unsavoury characters and as the show progresses, the audience is led deeper into the hotel where they discover and decipher further characters including the temptress Irma Vep, Helene, Fantomas’ angelic daughter, and Max, an eager journalist.
Stanley Silverman’s score is beautiful, enigmatic and embraces the show’s disjointed narrative with its smooth and impressive melodies. The score really helps to make Hotel For Criminals more of a journey and less of a series of scenes. Other elements that bring the production together include the well-sourced furniture, props and period costumes, which help to set the show’s eerie tone. There are superb performances from the entire cast, whose vocals are simply impeccable. The unnerving and almost doll-like movements of the cast ensure that there is never a moment where the audience is left sitting comfortably.
I cannot begin to fully explain Hotel For Criminals but I can say with confidence that I will never see anything quite like it again and I certainly enjoyed it. The blend of opera and a ‘rocky horror’-like tone make Hotel For Criminals a stunning piece of theatre which is well deserving of its cult following. Why this show has never come to the UK before astounds me. Prepare to be thrilled and mind boggled but never once bored.
An element of passivity is key to enjoying Hotel For Criminals: save your questions and confusion for the journey home and just enjoy the kaleidoscope of events unfurling before you. I highly recommend you check in to the Hotel For Criminals if you have the chance.
Author: Richard Foreman
Director: Patrick Kennedy
Composer: Stanley Silverman
Box Office: 0844 871 7646
Booking Link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/hotel-for-criminals/new-wimbledon-studio/
Booking Until: 29 October 2016