Frantic Assembly's latest theatrical experience, Dirty Wonderland, premiering at the Brighton Festival, is seedy, perverse and utterly delightful. This site-specific show celebrates one of Britain's most glorious and slightly disturbing traditions - the dirty weekend.
Before each performance, a small audience is bussed from the centre of Brighton to the Grand Ocean Hotel, a reminder of a bygone age of seaside holiday glamour.
In the play (and real life) this hotel is to be demolished to make way for luxury seafront flats. Alex and his girlfriend Rachel arrive for 48 hours of self-imposed sexual captivity. Having been warmly greeted by the manager, Mr Dickinson, who appears to have no knowledge of the hotel's imminent demise, Rachel mysteriously disappears in a flurry of pink petals.
Alex's hunt for her takes him and the audience through a maze of corridors, staircases and bedrooms, exposing the guilty secrets that lurk there. Performed with boundless incredulity by Joseph Traynor, Alex is manipulated by the staff and gradually drawn into the hotel's rotting internal life, while the plot slowly moves from farcical confusion to grotesque tragedy.
The story is laced with visual asides: a sad porter staring at his own birthday cake; the leather-clad backside of women indulging in crude sexual games; a half-naked man watching a blank television. Alex's race to find his lover is interspersed with comic physical routines. At one point, the audience stand inches from semi-naked actors nipping in and out of their rooms, desperately looking for towels or maybe more.
The directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett do not let the physical skills of the company dictate the nature of the show. The ensemble move between clowning, dance and dialogue to serve the play.
The journey to the venue is integral to establishing trust between actors and passengers. In the coach, the brilliantly inept guide (Ian Golding) points to "St Dunstans, the local centre for the blind with amazing views of the sea." It establishes the sense of humour we'll need when we enter the sordid world of the hotel.
To 29 May (01273 709709)
- More about:
- Actors And Actresses
- Performing Arts
- Sea And Ocean