The Dolphin Hotel

Mon 17th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Chloe St George

at 03:32 on 20th Aug 2015

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The Dolphin Hotel is a new play that focuses on the difficult realities of the lives of those implicated by the sex trade, and is presented in association with Stop the Traffik, a global organisation striving to put an end to human trafficking. From the programme, and a brief conversation with the writer and director, Samantha O’Rourke, it is clear that a lot of thought, research and concern for human rights has gone into the creation of this show. Unfortunately, however, none of these things are clear from the play itself.

In an overtly sexualised routine, Szuszana (Julia Quayle) is objectified from the very outset of the play. The music to accompany the interludes of physical theatre is suitably bleak and threatening. It almost sounds like the steady thumping of iron you might imagine in a Victorian factory. From then on she is literally passed between two men, with little choice of her own, as she spends alternate scenes with each of them. She is never allowed to leave the stage herself, even to get dressed, but must remain exposed throughout. This is what the show did well. I also enjoyed the use of physical theatre, when it was well executed, to allude to sexual and violent acts, and to Szuszana’s emotional damage by the end of the show.

Yet the performance left a lot to be desired. It is a relatively rare case; amongst hundreds of shows that are enjoyable to watch but contain no particularly poignant message, this is a bad show with an important message. O’Rourke says she wants to bring the matter closer to home, and highlight that the effects of trafficking are present in our own country. I believe that the choice of a hotel room, which could almost have been anywhere in the world, as the setting of the play, was detrimental to this. Likewise, her efforts to give a voice to the more vulnerable members of society are admirable, but the voice that she provides for them is less than adequate. A delicate and multifaceted subject matter is paired with a poor script, which was distracting and frustrating, as was the largely unstimulating acting.

It feels somewhat immoral to dissuade anyone from going to see a show with such an important and worthwhile cause – cast and crew members even collect donations for Stop the Traffik after the show. But whilst Samantha O’Rourke has many interesting and important things to say, this piece of theatre is certainly not the right medium to express them.

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Verity Bell

at 11:05 on 20th Aug 2015

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Undoubtedly, the heart of this piece was in the right place. Raising money and awareness for charity ‘Stop the Traffik’, it aimed to raise awareness of ‘the personal relationships which facilitate sexual exploitation’. Rather than encouraging much-needed discussions on the reality of human trafficking in the UK, The Dolphin Hotel was a clumsy portrayal of a personal trafficking narrative which manifestly failed to address its highly sensitive subject matter.

We meet Zsuzsana (Julia Quayle) with Eric, a man paying for sex (John Skerritt) in a dingy room of The Dolphin Hotel against her will. Over the course of the play, we learn of the course of events leading up to these tragic circumstances.

There were crucial aspects of the script which, however well-intentioned, prevented the work from having the desired impact. The stilted, unrealistic dialogue and wooden delivery made it difficult to empathise with or respond to the characters on a level more fundamental than their straightforward role in the crime of human trafficking. This was enormously problematic in relation to Zsuzsana: when producing a piece about a group of people who are marginalised, it is crucial that they appear as multi-dimensional and dynamic characters; that the play humanises the dehumanised. It was difficult to engage with her and feel the impact of her personal loss as a result of a horrific crime because as a character, she was never developed beyond a generic abductee. Her relationships with those who were complicit in her trafficking lacked the credibility for the piece to have emotional force. As a consequence, the piece also failed to apportion blame or adequately hold these men to account.

The attempts at comedy in the piece were at first merely awkward, and eventually so inappropriate that the jokes bordered on offensive. Similarly, certain metaphors came across as smug and unnecessary. While the decision to use physical theatre to portray violence was probably a wise one, the execution of said physical theatre was formulaic and unoriginal.

The Dolphin Hotel was brimming with potential to critically and powerfully confront an important issue. However, until serious failings in the writing are addressed, I cannot recommend this piece.

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