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Hotel Medea
Published on Sunday, 14 August 2011

5 stars

Summerhall (venue website)
5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 25-27 Aug, 11:45pm-5:30am
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

A show that starts at almost midnight, and finishes as dawn is breaking, is a daunting prospect. If it proves not that great, the chances of finding yourself trapped in an exhausting endurance test might be too much to risk. That was certainly a concern of mine as I left the house, at what would normally be bedtime, and made my way to Summerhall… but it didn’t turn out that way at all.

Hotel Medea is a phenomenal experience. The evening begins by assaulting your senses with a high-energy, confusing, immersive wedding ceremony, then only gets curiouser and curiouser. Some parts work brilliantly. I really enjoyed the section where you take part in a focus group for the now power-hungry, politically-aspiring Jason. By this point it’s 3am and everyone is feeling disorientated, prime for a bit of faux-brainwashing.

There’s even a section of the show where audience members, standing in as Medea’s ill-fated children, get tucked into bed by softly-spoken nurses and read a story about mummy and daddy’s adventures securing The Golden Fleece. The sight of a bed is most welcome, although the experience is far from restful.

Not all of it works. The collision of ancient and modern times doesn’t always gel, the narrative doesn’t always flow and, toward the end of the evening, some sections feel superfluous. A long sequence with a shopping trolley didn’t really work or fit the rest of the story.

But the ending is quite striking and the level of audience immersion achieved, especially considering we have been up all night, is amazing. One of the remarkable achievements of the show is how much it engages, despite taking place at a time of day when everyone would rather be at home sleeping. It’s trippy and melodramatic in places and does require a level of “just going with it”, but the pay-off for playing is a show that seeps deep into your bones.

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