This show begins with the sound of drums and then a dreadful storm and so gives its audience certain expectations of what is to come but, as Russell himself exclaims, “prepare yourself for the unexpected”! When he emerges through the black door that serves as his set it is not as some monster or a strange character but a seemingly ordinary, if somewhat flamboyant, man who serves as a sort of narrator for the events that take place within the hotel. I say events, for
The Tokyo Hotel was not at all what I expected, but it was all the better for it.
Russell’s characters are absurd, silly and sometimes sad, not just thanks to his excellent changes of voice and physicality but his script. With lines like “It’s the elevator! Oh, imagination!” as a self-deprecating reference to his lack of a set, and the somewhat poignant but nevertheless hilarious musings of one of the elevator operators – “”Whether we go up or down we are still trapped in the futility of existence!” – Russell has a gift for writing scenes and sketches that have the remarkable ability to be both comic, often to the point of absurdity, and thought provoking all at once. Russell’s use of the set and incidental music compliment his characters perfectly, with the door being spun to represent whether we are inside or outside a room, and the music helping to increase the drama or hilarity of a scene, such as the scene in which Russell enacts a deteriorating relationship between his character and a pot plant.
Towards the close of the show, Russell’s narrator has become despondent, and addresses the audience, saying “I know this isn’t what you expected. It didn’t always used to be like this.” He is not wrong there; The Tokyo Hotel was not at all what I expected, but it was all the better for it.