Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Hotel Paradiso, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter.
It’s a source of never-ending wonder that masks can convey such a myriad of human emotions. During this masterful 75-minute show not a single word is spoken nor a facial muscle exercised. Yet everything from love to grief, sexual desire to horror is expressed.
Berlin-based physical theatre company Familie Flöz has had more than 20 years to perfect the art of masked performance, and perfect it they have. There’s not a gesture, bodily movement or tilt of the head that doesn’t communicate something, all precisely timed for maximum effect.
Familie Flöz has described Hotel Paradiso as “a cross between Fawlty Towers and the Bates Motel”, which is pretty much spot on. Run by a brother and sister team (although that’s far from what they are), with help from their elderly mother, this 4-star accommodation has seen better days. Presumably when their late father was at the helm – now he only looks down disappointedly from a portrait.
On the day we join them, the hotel is visited by a series of challenges, each more outlandish than the last. Guests check in (or try to), deliveries are made, food is prepared and crimes are committed.
The Fawlty Towers reference is present throughout. Not only does the brother resemble Basil Fawlty (fawning over attractive guests, ineptitude in the face of emergency, ill treatment of the bellboy), but many of the TV show’s storylines are alluded to here. The Psycho reference is clear too, but with a whole different vibe. Knives do indeed come out, but there’s none of the Norman Bates menace here – even the most macabre moments have us laughing out loud. For a bit of fun, don’t do any research before the show and try to work out how many of these remarkable performers play the siblings, parents, guests, maid, chef and various cameo roles, then see if you’re correct at the curtain call. You may not want to check in to Hotel Paradiso for your holiday, but for a Fringe afternoon, it’s one of the best residences in town.
Pleasance Courtyard (venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 10 August 2015
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