Hotel Methuselah @ Summerhall

A window into a soul

Feature by Lois Jeary | 21 Aug 2011
  • Hotel Methuselah @ Summerhall

Blurring the lines between theatre, film and visual art, Imitating the dog and Pete Brooks' Hotel Methuselah is an unconventional masterpiece.

The acting space is limited to a narrow box, so that the performers are only visible from the neck to the knees as if in dodgy widescreen. Around and behind them, a screen shows classic black and white film of faces directly corresponding to the action.

Perception is skewed, both in terms of angle and depth, with scenes quite literally turned on their heads and doors racing towards you along corridors. Despite the piece's technical sophistication and convincing poise, it takes too much effort to tear our eyes away from the faces in the film, meaning that subtle moments of gesture are easily missed.

As bombs fall in the distance, thugs patrol the corridors, and guests sob in their rooms. The hotel's night porter passively encounters the various characters that come through the front door. Everyone presents Harry with their baggage, but none have more than this porter himself.

The setting is not incidental; the anonymity and loneliness you can feel in a hotel is like no other. At the mercy of sexual aggression from intimidating men and women alike, and failing to connect with the one person he needs to, Harry's isolation is evident. However, once the novelty of the staging has worn off, the staid demeanours and stiff upper lips of the characters fail to imbue the piece with any vibrancy and it drags its way predictably towards the revelation.

Both the staging and narrative force the audience to confront Harry's nightmare along with him. The action repeats over and over, capturing the tediousness of the night shift, of amnesia, of life. Yet while this production is an interesting marriage of classic design and contemporary multimedia performance, this frustration seeps into the drama, and ultimately the substance is not able to triumph over the style.

Until 26 Aug, Various times,