★★★ – until 30 August 2015
The Jetty, London
Play developed by Zoe Wellman and Sam Curtis-Lindsay
Directed by Sam Curtis-Lindsay
Heartbreak Hotel is a new immersive experience in London’s promenade theatre scene. Located just outside North Greenwich tube station, it’s a short and well directed walk towards and along the River Thames until eventually the hotel, at The Jetty, looms into view.
After checking-in, guests are invited to enjoy the bar area, with food and drinks available, either sat inside or overlooking the river, on benches or disused rollercoaster cars as a handful of hotel staff meander among the throng. The audience seems broadly unconcerned about the show that is yet to come, content with enjoying an evening out somewhere new and different in the capital. The kitchen service on press night was woeful, but as the season goes on, hopefully this will be remedied.
The plot revolves around two storylines; the first is of the hotel’s owner and his tale of heartbreak. The second is of a company called ACHE, that specialises in helping clients to deal with heartbreak themselves. These clients include some of the actors but also the audience too. There are occasional moments of audience interaction, but this is largely group-based and not too intimidating, making the overall experience quite accessible.
The evening performances commence hourly from 6.30 until 9.30, with a tannoy announcement telling guests to go to their (already advised) rooms. Once separated into groups the performance begins immediately as the cast of nine enter and exit the different locations, all of which are staged appropriately: bed, a bathtub, a gallery of trinkets and after each scene, the audience is ushered into a new space.
Each guest at the hotel will of course have a unique experience and the final act, set atop the venue, uses the glowing lights of the nearby Emirates Airline, O2 Arena and Canary Wharf to provide a spectacular backdrop.
The overall concept of Heartbreak Hotel makes for imaginative and innovative entertainment. The glimpsed fragments of characters’ stories are compelling and performed with conviction in a show that is broadly unpredictable and which in itself makes for a refreshing experience. Combined with the social experience available at the beginning and the end of the show, Heartbreak Hotel is a great way to spend a summer’s evening by the river.
Runs until 30 August 2015.
Guest reviewer: Bhakti Gajjar