There is a Peter Greenaway feel to this bold and vivid show at Summerhall – the new venue that’s hard to find and harder to find your way around. (‘I don’t know’ seems to be the default answer from anyone involved to requests for directions – suggestion: try ‘I don’t know but I can find out for you’.) This is perhaps the show’s strength and also its greatest weakness.
Essentially, what we are offered is a black and white film with colour episodes. Added to this are four actors decapitated by the designer, who give a 3D representation of some of the scenes from the film. Hotel Methuselah is a self-declared ‘homage to post-war British cinema and the French new wave’. This is its problem. It’s a film, with a few live actors included almost as an afterthought.
The press release claim that the show fuses ‘spectacular live action and video projection’ is simply laughable. There is little live action and even less of it is spectacular. Virtually everything of note happens on the film screen. What's more, from my seat and several others you can see backstage, meaning that all the set changing is visible; a basic issue of professionalism that seems an apt metaphor for the lesser importance attached to the live elements of this piece.
Which all makes for an ultimately disappointing experience. And it’s all rather one-paced – even the heaving naked behind pumps away in the same rhythm throughout. This isn’t necessarily a problem on film, where thrilling cutting and other technical wizardry can provide its own inner rhythm. Some of this is on show here, but this only serves to emphasise yet again the secondary role of the live action.
You walk away feeling that you have experienced something potentially interesting if derivative and that Hotel Methuselah's trio of respected creators would really rather have been making a movie.