This review was originally written for The Public Review.
The maid of honour screaming and running down the hotel corridor, wrapped in a towel half naked whilst chasing her daughter six times in an hour may alarm some guests in a hotel. But this is part of the show from Dante Or Die, a new show, co-commissioned by Almeida Festival 2013 and South Street Theatre.
Set in six rooms in a hotel and, of course, along said corridor, this tells the story of the bride and groom, various guests and a family getting ready for the wedding which takes place in fifteen minutes. Six groups of audience members are guided into each room and all the action takes place in real time simultaneously. The whole show is then repeated as the groups move into a different room, signaled by the Trainee Cleaner walking backwards down the corridor with her music from her iPhone playing in reverse (the show could be sponsored by Apple with the amount of iPhone references in it). The interesting thing is each group will view the story in a different order and will have to piece the story back together itself.
The story, written by Chloe Moss, is a mix of clichés such as last minute doubt, wardrobe dilemma and wedding romances, but also considers divorce, separation and growing old together. It is all encompassing but these subjects are lightly touched upon before the characters have to shoot off again in this game of merry-go-round. But the format is limiting in terms of timing as a crowd of twelve is only willing to be cramped into a hotel room for so long. On the other hand, the format is quite effective as the complete narrative can only be pieced together after seeing the whole show. The significance of each scene may not be obvious at the time making it intriguing. The intimacy and the real life hotel location give the show a stronger sense of drama than would have been otherwise. And the different rooms, interconnecting doors and suites are showcased to the full and can be seen as a justifiable involvement for the venue.
The director Daphna Attias coordinated and choreographed the show beautifully, showing off Dante or Die roots in dance and physical theatre. Some standout scenes such as dressing of the bride and the grandfather are not overly deliberate but have real emotional impact. The logistics of the show are tight with timing being an important part of the show, and are done well. The cast is good and in particular Penelope McGhie as the nervous mother juggling a few last minute problems and Terry O’Donovan as the speech-practising best man who may or may not have met someone special the night before. The show as a whole is an accomplished production at an interesting venue and may room service send a few more screaming bridesmaids down the corridor please.