Tuesday, 11 August 2015

REVIEW: Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse


AN aging prima ballerina who wants to retire, a Baron who is both bankrupt and a thief, a terminally ill young Jewish man, a hotel manager who wants to be by his wife's side as she goes into labour, a drug addict doctor and a typist longing to hit the big time in the movies.
These are just a few of the characters in Grand Hotel, a musical now on at the Southwark Playhouse.
It is being staged by the theatre’s dream team of producer Danielle Tarento and director Thom Southerland and it is a rousing and exhilarating production from the off.
The audience sits either side of a slim traverse stage with a glorious chandelier up above it.
It is along this stage, like a corridor in the hotel, that the 17-strong cast twirl, dance, stomp and parade up and down while giving the audience a snapshot of their lives.
Set in Berlin in about 1928 it tells the stories of those who stay and work in the hotel and how their lives intermingle over the course of one weekend.
Throughout the show, it's clear the Grand Hotel is a fine place to be. It’s a place where young and old, rich and poor converge, attracted by its opulence and possibilities and every one of those who pace its corridors has a story to tell.
Among the most poignant of those we hear about are Flaemmchen, the typist who dreams of Hollywood stardom, beautifully portrayed by Victoria Serra, Jewish book keeper Otto Kringelein (George Rae) and Madame Grushinskaya played with more than a touch of Greta Garbo by Christine Grimandi who wants to quit performing to empty houses.
It is a really fascinating production, well staged and with a stunning cast that left me wanting to know how life panned out for those who stayed and worked there after that fateful weekend.
And although the score isn't full of recognisable tunes, the music is dramatic and full of passion and energy, much like the show itself.
A word to the wise therefore, book yourself into the Grand Hotel - it's a gem.

The Grand Hotel is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until Saturday, September 5. Tickets cost £22. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.

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