REVIEW: ★★★ Hotel, Sadlers Wells

REVIEW: ★★★ Hotel, Sadlers Wells

Cirque Éloize is a slick group of multi-talented circus performers. As well as the more standard juggling, tumbling and aerial acts, almost all of the performers can also play a brass instrument of some description, creating a vibrant and cheerful atmosphere in this unique show. During the physical acts and musical numbers the show Hotel fizzes with a maverick energy that is enormously enjoyable to watch, although the production suffers with dips in-between these moments dragging the show.

If Wes Anderson were to move into circus, Hotel feels close to the kind of thing he might produce, with deadpan delivery of quirky lines made all the more charming by heavy French accents. As the title would seem to suggest, the production is set in a hotel – the main stage area comprises the lobby and bar whilst the gold framed spaces behind offer glimpses into other rooms, of both guests and staff. The production falls down a little on this conceit, however: whilst some characters work incredibly well – most notably Antonin Wicky as the bustling clown concierge – others are unclear, with a blurred divide between guests and staff that feels narratively unsatisfying. The performers are at their best as hotel staff, with a beautiful aerial rope sequence brought by Una Bennet when making a bed and some impressive juggling from Philippe Dupuis in the process of catching the leaks from the roof. Other stand-out acts are the hand-balancing duos, made up of Julius Bitterling and César Mispelon, who begin the show in fantastic style, and Andrei Anissimov and Emma Rogers, who have a touching duet.

The “house style” is a combination of speed and precision, making sequences sharp, peppery and exciting to watch. The performers seem to edge along the fine line between control and chaos, and as ever in circus the acts work best when there is a slice of danger: Tuedon Ariri is impressive in the aerial straps, and the majority of the company produce some exceptional work on the Chinese Poles, leaping over one another and plummeting towards the floor at speed. It is disappointing, then, when Jérémy Vitupier’s slack wire performance is muddied with a very conspicuous safety wire – an unnecessary addition that undermined the skill of the performance somewhat. It seems to betray a lack of confidence; a recurring theme of the evening, most excruciatingly obvious when singer Sabrina Halde forgets her place in a song and fumbles agonisingly onstage. It is also apparent in the less engaging sections of the production: there are some rather flat jokes about a dog called “Carpet” and an extremely bizarre choir which drags on for far too long.

This is a charming circus production that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with some incredible acts, excellent clowning and lively music. It would benefit, however, from cutting the fluff and working to tighten up the acts and transitions to keep the audience engaged and excited from start to finish.

Esme Mahoney

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