The Hotel

I headed up to The Assembly Rooms at George Street where Mark Watson had advised (via the wonder of Twitter) that free tickets would be available for his ‘show’ The Hotel. All I had to do to claim one was ‘find Simon’, which without approaching every male loitering around the venue and asking was easier said than done. In the end I gave up and just decided to buy a ticket anyway. I was then instructed to join a queue outside the building – and this is where the event took a slight turn for the unusual. We were given a map and had to walk across the street and round the corner to ‘The Hotel’ in question. As the crowd of around 50 filed in through the front door we were met by Mr Watson himself (in Hotel uniform) along with various other ‘staff members’. Some people were sent up stairs to their rooms, others down to the cabaret bar, I was given a key and advised that as my room wasn’t ready I might like to wait in the restaurant. There I was met (along with some other guests of The Hotel) by two waiters, played with much aplomb by two of the members of sketch comedy group Idiots of Ants (although I’m still trying to find out the names of the two it was). Whilst in the restaurant we were entertained with such delights as ‘Neighbours incidental music’ on the guitar, an interactive song about what we’d eaten that day (‘What did you have today mate?’), various interruptions from author and director of the madness, Mark Watson, regarding the hygiene issues surrounding the hamster that was in the corner of the room, and a very interesting discussion about how far we thought we could throw a dog, and the best method for doing so! You see, so far, so bonkers. I then decided to head up the stairs (past various certificates on the walls and pictures of the celebrities who were yet to stay at The Hotel).

On the first floor I was shepherded into the ‘Admin Centre’ where I had to give up a shoe and submit to a variety of physical and mental tests. This all sounds a bit more serious than it was – it was very funny – as one employee took vital measurements, such as the size of my bag and the distance from my arm to the door frame, and another shone a torch in my face in what can only be described as a small dark cupboard and asked my questions about any recent encounters with cats, dogs or monkeys! I was then reunited with my shoe and moved through to the TV room where another employee (this time played by the marvelous Chris Cox) was baffling ‘guests’ with his mind reading trickery. This was also where I fist encountered ‘Charlie’; The Hotel’s owner, resplendent in nightshirt and dressing gown, when he came in to watch the staring competition showing on the small TV.

To describe every nuance of this performance piece would take hours – there were various other rooms that the guests could wander in and out of (although the bedrooms were off limits), including a wellness suite, and chillout room (complete with zen garden and resident guru), the boardroom, lost & found, and the downstairs cabaret bar (unfortunately I didn’t make it that far). After about 45 minutes the ‘guests’ were all herded on the 3 flights of stairs which wound up through the middle of the building while the staff tried to get owner Charlie (who I’d last seen shouting at the employees in the wellness room, bottle of Jack Daniels in hand) back into his room. We were then subjected to a well timed rant and told in no uncertain terms to ‘Fuck right off’ and so we did.

The attention to detail from Mark and the rest of the cast was brilliant – every last inch of The Hotel had been bedecked with appropriate props and set dressing, and I didn’t see anyone slip out of character once – although how they were keeping straight faces at some points I don’t know). The large cast acted their parts brilliantly and although this play, if indeed that’s what it is, has no particular narrative it was fun, bonkers and thoroughly enjoyable. Everyone who sees this production will come away with a different experience; you can choose where you want to linger and where you don’t, the amount you interact with the cast is entirely up to you (but I would highly recommend it to get the most out of your stay at The Hotel). I would be tempted to go back for another visit as an hour just wasn’t long enough to see everything that was going on. My only criticism would be that the audience perhaps need a little more guidance, particularly early on. I lingered for quite a long time with the Idiots of Ants boys at the beginning (which to be honest I’m not really complaining about!), but really a bit of a prod toward the door earlier on would have meant I’d have had more time to see the rest of the goings on.

It certainly wasn’t a conventional start to the Fringe for me but one I would recommend whole-heartedly. I have a feeling that Mark Watson’s current high profile in the comedy (and cider advert) world will see this production gets the audience it deserves.

Sarah

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