Underbelly Festival’s new circus tent in the heart of Central London is the perfect setting for Lost in Translation Circus’ new performance piece. As a modern and innovative circus company they contribute to the festival with their theatre show Hotel Paradiso. Artistic director Massimiliano Rossetti has his troupe swinging around in the pop-up venue’s rigging in a breath-taking acrobatic spectacle.
The story of the once glamorous and well-known Hotel Paradiso is shared with us by its concierge (Lawrence Swaddle) and it goes as follows: once home to spectacular parties, glitz, and glamour, and of course the famous indoor pool, the hotel has been inherited by Madame. She has lost her parents in a tragic bucket accident and has since resigned to being the reclusive heiress and apparently the hotel’s only guest. Things have not been looking great since then and so it is to nobody’s surprise when Madame Sausage (it’s French) (played by Roisin Morris) and her husband (Massimiliano Rossetti) step through the door with the intent of buying up the hotel.
Less for its generic plot, and more for the magnificent circus performances, Hotel Paradiso is quite a sight to see. The maid (Natasha Rushbrooke) is climbing around in the chandelier – suspended four metres off the ground, the bellboy (Matthew Green) is juggling four to six bottles while balancing on a barrel placed on a table held up by two chairs, and the concierge delivers a sublime handstand. At times the performers are moving in synchronised chaos across the stage – they dance, jump, climb, fly and pirouette. They each have a moment in the spotlight to display their astonishing acrobatic abilities. Lost in Translation’s set and costume design is as equally pleasing as their circus skills. Dressed in purple and burgundy colours, the performers pay homage to traditional hotel etiquette and set an elegant scene.
However, as proficient as Lost in Translation’s acrobats are, they are sometimes overshadowed by their lack of storyline. Why is the concierge building a tower of chairs for the maid to climb onto when he should be looking for his tips? And why is the Madame hula hooping when she should be vacating the hotel? Many of the thrilling movement pieces do not inform the plot and it is easy to lose sight of what the characters are initially trying to achieve – which is saving the hotel. Elongated acrobatic sequences and slapstick comedy feel out of place at times, and the dance performances could generally be more fluent.
If the plot was tightened, and some of the choreographies perfectioned, Hotel Paradiso would be nothing but a spectacle to behold with acrobatic performances that have me gasping for air not only once. After all, what does it matter whether they are relevant to the story if they are just that mesmerising? The children in the audience don’t seem to mind, and neither do the adults in the audience who look as astonished as myself by what human bodies can do four metres off the ground.
Hotel Paradiso is playing at the Underbelly Festival until 5 August 2021. For more information and tickets visit Underbelly Festival’s website.