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What is it with immersive hotels? Ever since Sleep No More – Punchdrunk’s Macbeth-Rebecca hybrid set in the fictitious McKittrick Hotel – a wave of imitators has made the site-specific hotel performance into a genre of its own. We’ve had Hotel Confessions, the Southwark Playhouse’s intimate double bill at the Bermondsey Square Hotel; The Hit, an interactive performance at the Indigo London Tower Hill; Defibrillator’s Hotel Plays, showcasing three lesser-performed Tennessee Williams plays; A&B Productions’ The Backstage Tour at the Hoxton in Holborn; and now the directly titled The Hotel, staged at the arts centre 47/49 Tanner Street by emerging theatre company Jackinabox Productions, who have already garnered a host of critical plaudits for their successful reimaginings of plays from Romeo and Juliet to Don Juan.
47/49 Tanner Street is both a location and an organisation, whose website describes it as “work[ing] at the intersection of space, people and ideas”. Like Punchdrunk’s McKittrick, it is a converted warehouse, giving the drama a cavernous resonance. There is, I thought, a mysterious correspondence between the hotel and the warehouse. They are both transient places, loading bays where traffic, human or commercial, moves in and out, constantly replenished, regurgitated. There is no community in either; only impermanence.
When you are ushered into 47/49 Tanner Street, you ascend a staircase to a floor which is decorated in a quintessential “shabby chic” hotel style. You are asked to “check in” by an upbeat receptionist, who is entirely in character, and given a room key. Like Hotel Confessions, this is a double bill: the room key you get determines which play you see first, as two different 45-minute plays occur simultaneously, in separate rooms. Both of the plays you see are well-established classics of the theatre and compelling dramatic pieces, but I won’t reveal any more than that: if I did, this would take away from the excitement of seeing the plays fresh and without any preconceptions, the whole purpose of The Hotel’s experiment. Jackinabox do, in fact, ask you to keep the details of The Hotel secret “for guests who are still to visit”. Secret they will remain – but it can be safely said that both plays are wonderful masterclasses in suspense, building up tension to breaking point and leaving you on Hitchcockian tenterhooks.
Stumbling out of the building, I found myself mentally recapping and returning to various elements of the event again and again. This hotel’s enigmatic charms are absolutely worth uncovering; do yourself a favour and “check in” before it’s too late.
The Hotel runs at 47/49 Tanner Street until October 19. Tickets range from £5.95-£13.20.