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Words: Robert Parker-White

There has been much anticipation for Isobel McArthur’s new play The Grand Old Opera House Hotel after her success with Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of), and National Theatre of Scotland’s Kidnapped. 

Twisting classics into hilarious modern musical adaptations is clearly McArthur’s bag, but this play takes a while to get going, beginning with drawn-out scenes that fail to get the audience laughing.

We begin meeting Aaron (Ali Watt), the newbie hotel attendant, frazzled and often confused. It’s his first day working at the hotel where every room is exactly the same; beige and without personality to ‘risk offending no-one.’ An amusing nod to the budget hotels we know well. All the rooms look the same, so to transport us around the hotel – they merely have to change the number on the door. The glorious three-story stage design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita works exceptionally well.

Despite appearing as another soulless hotel, it was once a lively old opera house. With stories of the supernatural amongst attendants, Aaron mistakes Amy (Karen Fishwick) for a ghost singing opera. Through various trials and tribulations, the two cannot meet – Aaron looking for a ghost, and Amy looking for Aaron. 

As we reach the climax the play finds its feet in an all-out, sung-through comedic farce where the two desperately try to meet each other. Difficult customers stand in the way, parodying all manners of operatic classics with lyrics of mundane, hotel-room complaints. Despite a huge gear shift and the show feeling a lot weirder now that the characters can all sing opera, it doesn’t take long for us to accept this and get on side. The witty, irreverent and clever use of language delights as the laughs keep coming until the show nicely rounds up at the end. 

A very interesting concept that doesn’t quite land as well as we hoped.

The Grand Old Opera House Hotel
The Traverse Theatre, Traverse 1
Various times
10-13, 15-20, 22-27 Aug


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