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Hotel Happiness: Big ideas get lost in an anticlimactic production

Dublin Fringe Festival 2022: Despite its intriguing premise, Chaos Factory’s two-handed drama is disappointingly prosaic

Hotel Happiness

Project Arts Centre: Cube

From the off, this two-hander from Chaos Factory exudes a sterile air: its sparse stage design echoes the impersonal minimalism of hotel rooms but sets the tone for what follows. Scientist Celeste (Venetia Bowe) has her stay at Hotel Happiness disturbed by the mistaken intrusion of a composer, Maria (Fionnuala Gygax). Sealed together for 24 hours, the pair warily share the personal troubles that have them seeking contentment in the sinisterly themed hotel.

Given the otherworldly premise, what follows is anticlimactic, as the two characters gradually reveal their disappointments, deceptions and tragedies while offering bite-sized reflections on life’s vagaries. Despite the big ideas on show — love, death and birth — it’s a curiously prosaic and bloodless affair.

Under Luke Casserly’s direction, Bowe and Gygax’s script (created with Rachel Bergin) moves between incantatory monologues and mannered dialogue, punctuated by bouts of choreographed physicality. This renders Celeste and Maria as contrasting ciphers rather than rounded characters, lessening the impact of their backstories. It also fails to deliver the revelatory fugue state promised by the intriguing set-up. Overall, an unsatisfying stay.

Runs at Project Arts Centre, Dublin 2, until Saturday, September 17th, as part of Dublin Fringe Festival

Mick Heaney

Mick Heaney

Mick Heaney is a radio columnist for The Irish Times and a regular contributor of Culture articles