Sunday 4 December 2016

Review: The Last Hotel - Opera singing and edgy classical music clash in mischievous yet beautiful show

The Last Hotel, O'Reilly Theatre, Dublin

Sophie Gorman

Published 30/09/2015 | 07:00

Katherine Manley, Claudia Boyle and Robin Adams in Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera’s ‘The Last Hotel’, which is a funny and moving clash of styles that hits a profound note
Katherine Manley, Claudia Boyle and Robin Adams in Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera’s ‘The Last Hotel’, which is a funny and moving clash of styles that hits a profound note

An opera about assisted suicide sounds like anything but fun, but when have the festive joys of the carvery buffet been celebrated in opera? Both meet quite magnificently when the devilishly dark and brilliant mind of Enda Walsh gets together with musical maestro Donnacha Dennehy.

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Twelve musicians of the Crash Ensemble are arranged under a steeply raked and elevated stage. Everything is exposed in this set, designed by Jamie Vartan, and there are no hidden wings for actors to emerge from, just general clutter, metal tray trolleys, piled chairs, tattered light shades, harsh strip lighting at the rear and the wooden back wall like a corridor in an anonymous hotel.

A man appears like an overgrown hotel bellboy, he climbs walls, rights upturned chairs, sets up slides, pulls on marigolds and starts scrubbing. Still without music, a very British man and a woman in casual clothes meet an extremely elegant Irish woman. She tells them that she hopes this location is convenient, that she once threw a function here.

She asks about their boat crossing, tells them she has sat in a plane looking down at the ferry and marvelled at the freedom to roam about the boat during the passage. They overlook her patronising tone, recognising it to be innocent, realising it comes from nerves - and everyone is nervous. Her mobile phone rings. It is an angry message from one of her children - she is a mother, this matters.

Impressively for an opera, nobody has sung a note yet. And then they begin - and it is entirely, breathtakingly glorious. The extraordinary voices of Robin Adams, Katherine Manley and Claudia Boyle soar, accompanied by the poignant, silent physical slapstick of actor Mikel Murfi.

The dynamic is deliciously slow to emerge - where they are, why they are here, who will leave here? For here is 'The Last Hotel', and it will be the last night for one of them. Directed and written by Walsh, with music composed by Dennehy, The Last Hotel is a wonderful marriage of traditional opera-style singing with edgy, contemporary classical music and incredibly naturalistic and gleefully irreverent lyrics.

Presented by Landmark Productions and Wide Open Opera, this is a wonderful production; searing, powerful, funny, moving, mischievous, aphotic, devastating, beautiful. Life goes on - just not every life.

'The Last Hotel' speaks to us about living, about breathing, about being. Powerful stuff.

Irish Independent

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