This week I went to see Almeida Theatre put on Dante or Die’s ‘I Do’ immersive theatre piece at the Hilton Docklands hotel. The performance is a study on marriage told through a ten minute period leading up to a wedding as the characters get ready in their respective hotel rooms.
It is described as:
Love and marriage collide in this site-specific tour through six hotel rooms; a funny, vivid and often moving exploration of life dressed (and undressed) in all its finery, seen through the lens of an everyday family wedding. Divided into groups, audiences will move through six hotel rooms and experience the same ten minutes in a different order.
Everyone gets sent around the rooms with a tour guide – in our case, one who genuinely seemed to enjoy the production as much as we did. The performance takes place in six hotel rooms. It consists of one scene with a duration of 10 minutes, repeated 6 times. The audience watches it from different rooms for each of the 6 times, and each perspective provides new clues and secrets about the drama leading up to Georgina and Tunde’s big day. The actors dart from room to room, and it takes a while to get comfortable with what is happening when and where, who is phoning who, why Tunde has a rugby shirt on, where Nick goes without his clothes, and why the maid of honour is soaking wet—but it is tremendous fun piecing it all together.
The characters will not acknowledge or speak to you. You can sit and stand wherever you wish in the rooms, but be warned; you will have to jump out of the way on occasions and if you are sat on a chair that the actors need they will simply sit on top of you. They will also snog each other on top of you.
The organisation and timing of the interactions must be a logistical nightmare. At the end, the audiences are invited into the hallways to watch the cast members go through all the room to room interactions in warp-speed; how any of them manage to retain their composure during this piece is a true mystery.
The evening is well cast— co-artistic director Terry O’Donovan as the best man (with potentially the worst speech planned) is great fun, as is cramming into the bathroom for his performance. The bride’s brother is a jovial bunch of energy with a deep secret, and Christopher Reynolds handles this very well and with a lovely emotional depth. Bride and Groom Georgina (Rachel Drazek) and Tunde (Tas Emiabata) are rather sweet together, and leave you rooting for the couple to make it to the altar.
The hotel cleaner, a wide-eyed and calm Anna Richmond, provides some of the most interesting insights into the characters. That she manages to interact with every room bar one is incredible, and her character, as an outsider to the wedding party, bridges the gap between the internal struggles of the family and the watching audience.
Scenes are terrifically funny, as well as uncomfortable and awkward. A scene takes place, characters rush out, and your group remains in a quiet room not knowing who or what will come flying through the doors (or from behind the curtains) next.
On the surface the performance can feel rather light and fun, but there is some wonderful and touching sentiment on the idea of marriage that exists in this play. The room which houses the bride’s Grandparents, Eileen (Anna Carteret) and Gordon (Christopher Dunham) is moving, emotional and a lovely study of what marriage can mean over the years.
The look into the marriage of the Grandparents – a marriage that survived through the ages, yet was based on getting engaged on the day they met— is an interesting contrast with the objections to Georgina and Tunde’s marriage— that it’s all “too soon.” Yet the marriages that suggest they were made based on more thought-out decisions are not happy ones— as shown by the attitudes to their respective unions made by callous mother of the bride Maureen (Penelope McGhie) and maid of honour Abigail (Zoe Hunter.)
This is an excellent production—it’s lively, funny, and hugely enjoyable, yet also provides a lot of material to continue turning over in your head after stepping out into the brisk Docklands air. And what of Tunde and Georgina? Will they say their “I Dos?”
Well, you’ll just have to go and see it.
I do is running at the Hilton Docklands (don’t walk there through the forest) until Sunday 9th March. Book tickets here.