The Green Rooms, London – until 26 February 2017
As populism rises and fascists are tightening national borders with physical walls and stricter immigration regulations, the revolution is gaining speed. Protests and rallies are the most prominent forms of activism, but there is a growing movement in DIY and small actions.
Theatre isn’t standing by, either. In five of the bedrooms at the recently opened hotel for artists The Green Rooms, Isley Lynn and Philipp Ehmann have installed binaural radio drama performances telling stories of migration. With each story by a different writer, solo listeners are treated to intimate, personal accounts of characters impacted by migration. Quietly subversive, each story snapshots a changing world and the vulnerable people affected by the right wing’s knee-jerk, xenophobic reaction.
There is a range of narrative styles used. The linear naturalism of Gael Le Cornec’s dystopian The Broken Clock nicely contrasts two intertwining dialogues in Midnight Express by Milly Thomas. Tom Black’s The Same Country is relaxed and conversational whereas The Black Rock by Benedict Hudson is a fragmented, Welsh fever dream. Rafaella Marcus’ Epifania traverses generations and nations transformed by war. Some of the pieces are stronger than others, but the content is hugely personal and allows for a range of emotional responses.
Designers Sorcha Corcoran and Geneva Brown ensure each room is detailed and distinctive. From Scandi coziness with biscuits and a rocking chair to a cold Nazi labour camp, individual audience members can interact with each room in solitude. The act of solo listening fosters intimacy and a more personal relationship with the story, which undoubtedly sways audience emotional response. It’s an effective device that supports the Hotel Europe‘s aims of generating empathy and understanding.
The room order is curated by a bright eyed, chirpy receptionist who hands you a key that matches a photo on the door. After each room, it’s swapped for another and eventually leads to a nook at the far end of the corridor containing a guestbook, where there’s further time to reflect on the experienced stories and share your thoughts with other audience members. It’s a lovely way to transition back into the real world.
The power of Hotel Europe is in the solitary closeness between the audience members and the work. The immersive design and and freedom to take in the pieces shapes the experience and allows for a different sort of reflection than that found in a dark room with other people. It has a quiet, lingering power and isn’t aggressive in its agenda – a moving and vital work for a turbulent world.