Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse
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10 Aug REVIEW: Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse

Berlin, 1928, and the city’s most luxurious hotel is open for business. As the bell boys and maids glide silently through the corridors, an eclectic collection of guests emerge from their rooms, each with startlingly different stories that begin somewhere else, only to become inextricably entwined at the Grand Hotel.

Grand Hotel 03Meet Elizaveta Grushinskaya, a Russian ballerina for whom the sun is setting on a shining career, and Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag, a first world war veteran perpetually nursing his wounds and living out what’s left of his days in luxury. Meet the handsome Baron Felix von Gaigern, an impoverished aristocrat with a fondness for gambling, and ambitious typist Flaemmchen with dreams of being an actress. There’s industrial businessman Hermann Preysing, waiting to discover if his failing company will be rescued, and sensible Jewish bookkeeper Otto Kringelein, behind whose shabby exterior hides a passionate man. Yet at the Grand Hotel the guests are only half the story, the circle completed by a dedicated troupe of disciplined staff, more than just the ensemble of the piece, but rather instrumental, in every way, to this distinguished Hotel experience.

The incarnation of 1920s splendour, Grand Hotel shows the West End how it’s done when it comes to production values. With sound and light design imperceptibly perfect (Andrew Johnson and Derek Anderson) and a fabulous array of gorgeously detailed costumes (Lee Newby), a barely-there set proves ideal for conjuring up hotel spaces as if from nothing, swirling into solidity with the swish of a feather duster before disappearing into thin air with a second. This ability to create such vivid scenes is testament to outstanding direction from Thom Southerland, lobbies and bedrooms spun into existence with little more than magnificently-rehearsed bodies and the gentle massaging of audience imagination by the experienced hand of evocative orchestrations. But this would all be for nothing were it not for an exceptional cast, courtesy of casting director Danielle Tarento, a woman whose name on any production credit list reliably serves as a seal of quality.

LGrand Hotel 02eading the pack when it comes to Tarento’s cast, Victoria Serra delivers the stand-out performance of the show as sassy stenographer Flaemmchen, in a role that’s as endearing as it is well executed. A twenty-something single woman who knows her mind but can’t help but be attracted to the bright lights of Hollywood, she’s a lady composed on the surface, but fizzing with excitement underneath, fallible yet well-intentioned and endlessly likeable, like the 1920s lovechild of Marilyn Monroe and Bridget Jones. On a similar yet opposing note, as Felix von Gaigern, Scott Garnham positively drips with swagger, every inch the cocky young baron who’s in over his head with an uncompromising creditor, a powerful vocal matched by an equally powerful stage presence.

Throwing Jacob Chapman and James Gant’s voices into the mix, and layering them with spectacular, soaring vocal and instrumental arrangements, this production of Grand Hotel comes together with an irresistible poise and elegance, a heady cocktail of jazz-age choreography and cutting one-liners, and just as much – if not, more – class than the eponymous establishment.

For tickets and information:
Venue: The Large, Southwark Playhouse
Dates: 31st July – 5th September 2015
Images: Avid Ron

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
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