Electric Hotel, The Level, Brighton

Reviewed by Fiona Sturges

Sunday 23 October 2011 04:02

In Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, a helpless James Stewart glimpses the goings-on in the opposite apartment block, his relentless curtain-twitching leading him to conclude that a murder has been committed. In Electric Hotel we are put in a similar position, sitting in the dark with headphones on in the middle of an urban park and staring into a specially constructed Modernist hotel in which people are behaving rather oddly. All that's missing is Grace Kelly and a pair of binoculars.

The notion of watching a performance in a public space, the bustle of a busy Saturday night all around you, is undoubtedly thrilling and has become something of a trademark for director David Rosenberg, co-founder of the theatre company Shunt, who once parked an audience on a London roof terrace to watch a man being bludgeoned to death in a next-door office block.

One of the most disconcerting elements here is the sound; it's as if the drama is taking place inside your head. There's the crunch of feet on gravel, the dull thud of a suitcase on a bed, the clatter of keys in a lock, the whisper of a towel dropping to the floor – all heard with shocking clarity. At one stage you start to hear the lapping of water. Confused, you find yourself looking around, as if a flash flood has just washed through the park, until suddenly you spot a woman on the hotel roof heaving herself up a metal ladder. All becomes clear when you see that she is in a swimming costume and goggles, and hear the squelch of wet feet sliding into flip-flops.

These early details are to be savoured since viewed as a whole they fail to amount to anything substantial. Voyeurism is a well-worn topic these days, and this show offers little in the way of enlightenment. If James Stewart were watching this he would surely have closed the blinds and gone to bed.

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