As audiences members we almost always experience performance in a passive and inert way. Sitting satisfied in a large group watching others perform for us, we are allowed to interpret the work as we are directed to, or however else we wish. We may profess to being affected by a piece of theatre or a poetry reading, but with alarming frequency these events give us a one time jolt of questioning or dissenting thought and then fade away into the daily realities of living our lives. So to encounter theatre that aims to modify the audience’s role in order to have a more constructive effect on our opinions thereafter is both refreshing and important. Various practitioners within the TOgether network have here combined to create such a work,
Hotel Europa lays bares the truth – we’re trapped in something we didn't all choose, but only together can we escape it.
Hotel Europa is presented as forum theatre, a facet of the theatrical method rather intimidatingly called Theatre of the Oppressed. In reality this means that the play that is performed for us can later be altered by us. Invited onto the stage, we can ask the actors to behave differently, scene by scene. The play essentially charts how neoliberalism and capitalist ideologies dominate Europe, represented by a hotel, and how debt, consumerism and interdependence have led us into an ideological cul de-sac from which we cannot emerge without considerable damage. The hotel’s owners take loans and essentially subscribe to neo-liberalist capitalism in order to make their business profitable, while their son tries with all his might to convince them, the hotel employees and everyone else that there is another way: Utopia.
This performance is brilliant simply for its alternative theoretical basis. The company is formed of seven different nationalities, so very little dialogue is used, with movement, brief songs and chanting employed to create meaning and drive plot. This could be performed in any country. Simple, but effective representations of various ideologies, a top hat to signify capitalism for example, are used to express the situation we now find ourselves in. It's remarkably clear, though it inevitably simplifies capitalism into being an outside, wholly evil entity. Hotel Europa’s best feature though, is revealed when the forum theatre kicks in and we begin to suggest alternative ways a scene could be played out. In this way, the difficulties of escaping the cycle that global capitalism has set in motion is rendered crystal clear. It is frightening, and it stays with you long after the performance has finished. Perhaps the company could afford to have a slicker way of facilitating this participation, as there are awkward moments that are results of miscommunications, but ultimately Hotel Europa lays bares the truth – we’re trapped in something we didn't all choose, but only together can we escape it.