By God Electric Hotel is a cool show. As the audience settles into their seats, the atmosphere is more akin to a festival main stage than a theatre auditorium. It helps that we’re outdoors in the shadow of a rusty gas tower skeleton, the clouds insolently floating by us in a twilight sky and a vacancy light flickering anxiously – the Electric Hotel is open for business. It’s all distinctly 1950s American epic but forget the shiny innocence of the ‘70s nostalgia for those years: this is no Happy Days; more a winking acknowledgment to the eerie and disturbing world of David Lynch.
Working within a cyclical structure, there is no narrative to the piece. Instead we are invited to experience seemingly random passages of movement that flow seamlessly into transporting periods of synchronicity. We may all be alone in this world but we are also inexplicably linked, director David Rosenberg and choreographer Frauke Requardt seem to be saying.
Requardt’s choreography blends sharp angles with a free form lucidity that both attracts and repels. We watch as a couple are repeatedly drawn into a fight; a maid with an unnerving sense of over-familiarity bustles rather threateningly from room to room; a man alternates between ‘rocking out’ and boyishly playing ‘Indians’; and a desperately lonely woman tries to make connections.
It is not only the dreamlike images that conjure a Lynchian feel, but also Ben and Max Ringham’s meticulously crafted and evocative soundtrack, which is played into individual headsets. The level of sophistication within this sound design is magical, at times breathtaking, tricking the brain with disconcerting regularity. As our strangers pace their airless glass cages we are at once pulled into these claustrophobic environments and, as the wind whips around us, distinctly kept at arm’s length.
Electric Hotel may not be as poignant as the creators want it to be, or as illuminating about ‘life’. But afterwards it leaves palpable traces, with every sound and lighting state heightened for the walk home. It is a unique and rather uplifting experience and, for the visual and aural dexterity alone, you don’t want to be the one that hasn’t seen it.
– Honour Bayes