Heartbreak Hotel, The Jetty
Spending an evening in a series of dimly lit storage containers on a jetty off the beaten path in a big city sounds more like the plot to a Criminal Minds episode than a theatrical wonderland, but there’s a surprising amount to enjoy about the show currently taking place on The Jetty in Greenwich.
For Heartbreak Hotel, The Jetty has been transformed into a very convincing run-down English seaside resort that had had its heyday between the 1950s and 1970s. The paint and wallpaper are deliberately faded and not overly clean; the feel of the place is rather charmingly dated and dusty.
Over the course of the evening, groups are led through the hotel – down corridors, through wardrobes, and up stairs – to witness scenes from two story-lines; one set in the present day and one which references a tragedy in the hotel’s past life. Both stories have moments of interest, but there is a slight disconnect between the two story-lines and where there was an interesting shared element that could have been expanded on and used as a method to dovetail the theme of heartbreak (the loss of a daughter), this wasn’t done – and as a result this felt like a production of two halves.
The A.C.H.E., or current day storyline, is creepy. A charismatic charmer has taken over the hotel in order to run a rather bizarre type of couples therapy that involves delving into your heartbreak and using prescription drugs to alter your memory of it. The guests in this ‘present’ storyline are so interesting – far more could be made of the dominatrix and the fearful man and also the tension between the bereaved woman (a fantastic and wonderfully cast Rebecca Oldfield) and her boyfriend – a scene which was beautiful as she verged on the edge of maniacal – but the concept of the therapy was underdeveloped and felt flimsy being upheld next to some of the really emotive and wonderful scenes on offer.
The second story line was the one of the hotel in its heyday – a series of flashbacks to when the hotel was a den of sexual experimentation and a swingers’ paradise. Will Harrison-Wallace as the hotel proprietor is very watchable in this role – he’s passionate, nostalgic and completely heartbroken. In some ways, he’s a ghost of the hotel’s glorious past, wandering from room to room searching for the glimpses of the happiest period of his life and trying to find reason behind what appears to be a very tragic suicide owing to a broken heart.
The atmosphere in this portion is very evocative of Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man (there are many similarities to the show throughout) – but just as the storyline regarding the death of the hotel proprietor’s lover gets interesting, we are back to the less convincing modern day storyline’s conclusion on the roof which feels (somewhat ironically, I admit) to be quite half-hearted.
Where this production does excel is with regards to the setting and the décor. Everywhere you turn, this is a very complete world that we’ve stumbled into. Everything looks exactly as you would expect to find it for such a hotel. The walls are fully papered or painted as they should be for a hotel of this era; the bathroom is tiled and almost provides an echo for the portions of the show which take place in there.
Overall, it’s a fun production to visit, and the visuals and décor of the hotel make it well worth the visit. Don’t underestimate the fun to be had outside of the venue either; the jetty has been set up with food and drink stalls and there’s loads of seating so that you can relax, have a beer, and enjoy a really rather stunning view of London as the sun sets.
Heartbreak Hotel is running until Sunday August 23rd and TimeOut London are currently running a half price offer on tickets. For more information on the show, please click here.