Smart, succinct and startling [by Sharu Delilkan]
How can anyone resist being a voyeur? That’s probably what everyone was thinking as they sat down to witness the shenanigans about to take place before their eyes in the seedy motel room presented on stage in front of them.
Motel definitely provided the audience their fill of scandal as the stories in the four “unrelated” vignettes unfold on stage.
Written by April Phillips, Motel is reminiscent of the famous 1995 anthology comedy film movie Four Rooms directed by Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino. Instead, everything takes place in the same room with four different scenarios, with the connecting sub-plot about the motel-owner character played by Kenneth Blackburn ONZM.
Phillips’ writing is not just clever and succinct but manages to cover a huge gambit of themes, which include ambition, family, infidelity, loneliness, loss, love, mistrust and phobias, which is quite an achievement given the brevity of each of the pieces.
I particularly liked the use of repetition within each vignette – a start, middle and end – despite their very different content. It helped reinforce the varied messages and themes as well as proved to be a great device for revealing information about the central character (Blackburn), almost like peeling back the layers of an onion.
The simple and effective use of blackouts and music to depict the dramatic moments in each of the pieces was also equally excellent.
Stand out actors were Kenneth Blackburn ONZM, Cameron Rhodes and Leisha Ward-Knox. The way in which Blackburn and Rhodes bounced off each other in the third vignette was a delight to witness and something I’d like to see more of in the future.
On the negative side, the pace of the first half was definitely lacking. Something that could be attributed to first night jitters and which seemed to resolve itself in the second half, which was evident by the audience’s resounding applause.
That being said, Phillips’ ability to take the audience on an emotional journey throughout the play was a major coup. We laughed-out-loud, we cried and at times we even gasped. These are great moments that we cherish in a memorable theatrical experience. One that can only come from cleverly crafted writing that sets up storylines resulting in a powerful ultimate reveal.
Motel is presented by Cas ‘n’ Ova Productions and plays at The Basement Theatre until 24 August. More information at The Basement Theatre.