Your stay at the Heartbreak Hotel begins as soon as your arrive at North Greenwich station, where bellhops will instruct you to follow the signposts to the box-office-cum-check-in-desk, so that you can be assigned a room number. From the decking, complete with seating made out of fairground ride carriages, to the faded flamingo wallpaper and piles of suitcases in the foyer, there is a real sense of ambience that starts the moment you step foot on The Jetty – Greenwich’s newest floating venue and current residence of the intensely surreal Heartbreak Hotel. This immersive theatrical experience is a collaboration between Managing Mayhem and Zebedee Productions and makes for a unique and memorable evening.
Upon the concierge announcing that your room is ready, there is a palpable sense of anticipation. Heartbreak Hotel relies heavily on sustaining this level of intrigue and curiosity as you never know what secrets lie behind every closed door. The audience is divided into groups that experience the vignettes in a different order, which makes for a fragmented narrative that in parts is difficult to piece together. Constructed from a series of sea containers, the claustrophobically intricate hotel is scattered with lost and broken souls who appear to be sojourning at Heartbreak Hotel to try and find a sense of fulfilment, so that they can mend their broken hearts and learn to love again.
Heartbreak Hotel is an emotional kaleidoscope. Without wanting to give too much away, you will go from belting out break-up songs beneath a glistening disco ball to wincing at the commands of a leather-clad dominatrix. Timid natures aren’t encouraged as audience members are frequently asked to participate and interact with the cast. Personally I think that the group sizes were too large, meaning the rooms felt overcrowded, which detracts from what should be a more intimate experience.
Although Heartbreak Hotel has strong foundations and there are some glimmers of brilliance, for me it never really gains momentum. The final scene takes place on a balcony with a stunning view of the twinkling London skyline, and of course the Emirates cable car that leads to nowhere. The backdrop aside, I didn’t find the Russell Brand-esque conclusion itself that satisfying. Heartbreak Hotel is a good introduction that will gently ease you into immersive theatre, however if like me you were expecting something as majestic and detail-orientated as Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, you may wish to holiday somewhere else this year.
Heartbreak Hotel is playing at The Jetty until 30 August, For tickets and more information please visit The Jetty website.