REVIEW: The Grand Old Opera House Hotel – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

While the publicity material may look like Wes Anderson’s gloriously colourful Grand Budapest Hotel, Isobel McArthur’s The Grand Old Opera House Hotel couldn’t be further from that. Once a splendid opera house it’s now a homogenised symphony in beige and home to a rag bag collection of staff and guests.

Despite its ultra modern appearance, there are glimmers of its tortured past (a fire, two deaths) the lights flicker, apparitions flit across the windows and the sounds of the world’s most familiar arias can be heard through the corridors.

Into the madness comes Aaron (Ali Watt) a new employee with no clue what he wants from life. While working, he is captivated by the angelic-voiced, other-worldly music he hears and endeavours to find its owner. Tortured by his desperation to find the voice, he has no clue whether the music is real or imagined, A chronic dose of insomnia isn’t helping. That and his quite frankly awful fellow employees do little to help soothe his soul.

There are tons of laughs and much to amuse, but it needs a bit of fleshing out to make the madness and the love story more cohesive. and despite its 90 minute running time, it has moments where it flags. There are plenty of set pieces with the deranged staff and guests, think hen nights, illicit affairs and downright nasty shenanigans, but there are too many of them and a little too broadly sketched and predictable.

Where the whole thing shines is its excellent cast and the last half hour’s opera pastiche that is both clever and hysterically funny. The shower opera scene delivered by Christina Modestou is genius, and Ann Louise Ross is an utter scene-stealer as the cynical Scottish chambermaid.

McArthur’s signature anarchy and inventiveness are present here but it doesn’t measure up to her previously acclaimed work Pride And Predjudice *(*sort of)… yet. All the elements are here to make another work of genius and hopefully it will have a life beyond the Fringe.


Runs until 27 August 2023 | Image: Contributed



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