Brighton Festival 2010
Venue: The Level
Festival: Brighton Festival
Electric Hotel is a lonely, bizarre and beautiful outdoor spectacle; a uniquely designed, fly-by-night hotel brough to vivid life through dance and sound.
As well as a considerable chill, a tangible excitement was in the air as the audience queued on Brighton’s Level to take their headphones to experience Electric Hotel. The description of this project was mysterious promising ‘glimpses of the do-not-disturb lives unfolding behind the floor-to-ceiling windows’ of the titular Hotel.
The structure created for the piece is undeniably a great achievement, imposing, modernist concrete and glass with some whimsy thrown in by a penthouse bar in full swing with revellers dancing and drinking.
As the performance started, indicated by the illumination of the hotel’s neon sign, you became aware of the binaural recording at work – audio presented as a 3D soundscape, crunching gravel from behind you, a helicopter overhead, street noise and then a jazzy soundtrack fading in. This sense of intrigue was enhanced as strips of light appeared at rhythmic intervals from the gaps in the blinds. At once all the blinds lifted revelling a cast of hotel guests and this is seemingly where the problems began…
For a performance that purported to be about acts of repetition and patterns in every day life it was remarkably difficult to follow. This was dance theatre piece with the most meagre use of text and whilst the dancers were clearly extremely talented performers – I particularly enjoyed the female performer conveying a militant lone swimmer, journeying from her room to the penthouse pool – characterisation was sparse and unclear and even a non-linear narrative was tricky to identify.
As an audience member there was simply nothing I could attach to, the piece seemed to be lacking in any sense of warmth or cohesion that would have propelled this great concept into a reality that really connected with an audience. Beyond the shows intriguing opening you were firmly in a David Lynch land of shiny surfaces and unprovoked violence, yet at least with his films you have the helping hand of speech, albeit cryptic, to help you navigate and connect to the surreal.
So with truly spectacular intentions and a visual and technical impact that will remain long in the memory, sadly, Electric Hotel seemed to fall short in most other departments.