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Review: Hotel Paradiso at Jacksons Lane

Review: Hotel Paradiso at Jacksons Lane

On the day before I went to see Lost in Translation’s new show, Hotel Paradiso, I went to see Cirque de Soleil.

I know, it seems a little unfair. What I will say, however – and it’s something that I know I have banged on about before – is that circus performers are truly remarkable physical beings. Honestly, even in a relatively small production, the things these people can do with their bodies is truly bonkers.

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The company come from all over the world and their signature style is warm, funny, and character-driven, all features which are very much present in Hotel Paradiso. Set in a ramshackle, old Grand Budapest-inspired establishment, the story (more or less) centres on Madame (hotel owner) and her mish-mash of assembled staff and family, as they try to save the hotel from falling into the hands of the evil Banker who wants to foreclose.

Truthfully though, as is often the case with circus, the plot is pretty incidental. You go to the circus to watch the…well… circus tricks!

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I ought also to mention that it was half term and the audience was 90% small human. My lovely Plus One and I were the only people who weren’t there accompanying a child. Now, I’ve never formally reviewed a kids’ show for this fine publication, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect and – in a truly shocking turn of events – I actually really loved watching surrounded by a bunch of kids. It was like a circus show and a free comedy show in one.

First of all, children don’t ooh, aah, or clap at any of the right places. In fact, they seemed pretty unimpressed by the juggling, hula-hooping or hand-standing, and more interested in handing out some rather sage advice.

My favourite lines included:

o   “Be careful lady, you’re really high up” (directed at lady swinging from ropes)

o   “I reckon I could jump from there” (directed at lady dangling from a chandelier)

o   “Don’t climb that, that’s not safe!” (directed at lady doing a handstand atop a precariously balanced pile of chairs – and they were right, it didn’t look safe at all!)

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I was also told off by a 6-year-old for taking pictures, and it took all my strength not to turn around and hiss at him “they said I could as long as I didn’t use FLASH!” I can’t help but feel the company would not have appreciated the resultant intergenerational slanging match.

So, how did I like my first family-friendly show? Quite a lot, actually! It was cheesy, for sure, but stopped considerably short of making me want to jab a fork in my eye. So there’s that. Hotel Paradiso is definitely designed for kids, but it got more adult-friendly as it went on.

The cast are clearly talented circus performers, and there is a genuine warmth to their performing – you can tell they really want the audience to have a good time, which was lovely. And – I might add – the kind of connection you could not possibly get from watching Cirque de Soleil. Particular shout out goes to Lawrence Swaddle (whatta name, eh?) who was charmingly Fawlty-esque as our compere and narrator.

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The highlight by far for me was watching company co-director, Annabel Carberry (who played Madame) try to pour herself a glass of wine while hula hooping. And, frankly, if that’s not a perfect visual metaphor for having a shit week, I don’t know what is. (Can’t visualise it? Head to our Instagram to see the full vid.)

A couple of the other set pieces went on a fraction longer than they needed to – my suggestion would have been to shorten them and maybe add one or two more short ones in – perhaps something collaborative with the whole company (who doesn’t love a human pyramid?!) Also, I thought it could have done with a bit less story – there seemed to be a couple of unnecessary narrative twists. Though please know this is me being extraordinarily picky.

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All in all, Hotel Paradiso was charming, cute, and funny – with enough good circus to carry it. The perfect way to spend a half-term afternoon. Keep an eye out for this if you’re looking for family shows with a difference. Who needs Cirque de Soleil, really?

Lost in Translation can be found touring the country for the next few months – so take a look here to find out when they’re coming your way.

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