REVIEW: Heartbreak Hotel (Q Theatre)

Review by Hannah Jamieson

Photography by Andi Crown

[Find Some Room For Broken Hearted Lovers]

Take a walk down Lonely Street to Heartbreak Hotel at the Q Theatre, the latest creative venture by Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken. 

It’s hard to know what to expect when you arrive at the Heartbreak Hotel. When our hotelier and host (Karin McCracken) comes on stage in a bedazzled lilac suit, backed by a hemisphere of LED panels and grounded by Barbie pink carpet, we’re not sure if we’re about to watch a dating show or be preached to by a love guru. 

So, it’s best to set expectations aside because the Heartbreak Hotel is a brand new formula for mending a broken heart and finding love again. 

Off the bat, McCracken gets our blood flowing with a few laughs. Her witty, deadpan humour never misses a beat as she lets us know the ins and outs of our stay here; there will be humour and heartache, but most importantly, the soundtrack to go with it. 

The night’s first song is the show’s namesake, Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Both music and vocals are performed by McCraken, who artfully uses the synthesiser to slow down and reverb this 50’s classic. 

On paper, it shouldn’t work, but the unhurried rhythm encourages us to contemplate the themes of misery and heartache embedded in what were once rock’n’roll lyrics. The subdued, emotional rave unfolding on stage finds a visual counterpart in the dynamic light show playing in the background and seamlessly unites the entire set. 

While we settle in for the night, McCracken must journey through the perils of a broken heart. The path through heartbreak is not linear. Our heroine must navigate forward as they date new people while also reconciling her past relationship with her ex-boyfriend of six years. 

These scenes are enhanced by Simon Leary, who plays a carousel of characters as McCracken’s Tinder date, doctor, best friend, and ex-boyfriend. The pair have an enchanting chemistry across all scenarios; their portrayal of an anxious/avoidant relationship is particularly notable in its realism, offering an eye-opening experience for anyone who has ever found themselves trapped in a similar dynamic. 

Interspersed in the emotional journey are science lessons exploring why heartbreak feels so bloody awful. McCracken had the audience howling with her musical retelling of how, after a breakup, the hormones in our body really do their best to mess us up. 

However, with all these elements circulating, Heartbreak Hotel bleeds at the edges. Leary is an electric addition, but at times his presence felt like a forced attempt to give him more stage time (the inclusion of Leary performing Elvis-esque dance moves is somewhat superfluous). With a hearty 90-minute run time the show’s structure becomes slightly arrhythmic, needing to do more to warrant a two-person cast. We contemplate the potential for the show to evolve, considering the possibility of a one-woman production or a more profound exploration into the two sides of a relationship. 

Nevertheless, prepare to laugh, cry, and be thoroughly entertained at the Heartbreak Hotel; its music-comedy concoction is the perfect remedy for a broken heart. 

Heartbreak Hotel plays at the Q Theatre from the 28th of November to the 2nd of December 2023.

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