From here unfolds, not so much a narrative, but a series of vignettes loosely strung together, documenting Noah’s encounters with the occupants of Hotel Obsino. The hotel is made up of a wild group of fringe dwellers, consisting of drug dealers, former asylum patients, Neo-Nazi’s, and sex-obsessed would-be Lotharios. It is a credit to writer/director Adam Broinowski and his wonderful cast that this menagerie of characters are able to strut the stage with ease, without ever once feeling like stereotypes. In fact these characters, for the most part, are fully developed existing completely in a world of their own, a world that advocates drug-use as a weapon against reality and in which sex and sexuality are loosely defined.
La Mama’s space is elegantly used, and there is a clear sense of delineation between the various rooms within the Hotel. The ensemble works together beautifully, inhabiting this space in a truly transient manner, moving from room to room, upstairs to downstairs, all the while conveying the sense of aimlessness that fills their world. Two performances are of particular note: Dylan Lloyd as Dave, the former jail inmate and Neo-Nazi, struggling with the reality of his sexuality and using a warped logic to justify his place in the world, is mesmerizing. While Brendan Bacon as Gold, the drug dealer who cons people out of their money, creates a captivating physicality and voice, that makes you believe that he just stumbled in from off Smith Street.
Where the play misfires is in its representation of Noah, a character who is never really developed beyond his initial role as an everyman cipher for the audience to relate to. Strangely Noah never seems to engage with the world of the Hotel, seemingly content to stand apart from it and observe it, and this makes his eventual breakdown and desire to leave the Hotel, difficult to believe. Occasionally the play lingers too long in certain scenes, and the final third seems at times aimless and without purpose. In addition it would have been satisfying to see some of the lesser characters such as Miss Jones (Melanie Douglas) and Raja (Polash Larsen) be integrated more into the world as whole.
This is not to say that this is not an exciting work, in fact this work deserves a greater life beyond this season, not only because it represents a world now lost to us (the real Hotel, Hotel Hotham is now a backpacker’s hostel), but because this work with its exceptional performers and stagecraft should be given room to develop. Hotel Obsino exists in a dirty world, an unclean unsafe underworld, and it is this that makes it wonderful theatre, however if you like your experiences sanitised look elsewhere, as this performance is not afraid to confront you.
La Mama presents
Written and directed by Adam Broinowski
Venue: La Mama | 205 Faraday Street, Carlton
Dates: Wed September 12 - Sun September 30
Times: Weds and Suns @ 6.30pm, Thurs and Fris @ 8pm, Sats @ 4.30pm
Bookings: 9347 6142
Part of The Age Melbourne Fringe Festival 2007