This one definitely needs a big SPOILER ALERT. If you’re going to see Look Left Look Right‘s new show, come back and read this later. Surprise is all.
So, the Corinthia is the real deal – a proper, full-on, 5-star, gilded hotel, no expense spared, no luxury omitted; the Ibis it ain’t. I don’t usually dress up to go to the theatre, but this isn’t a venue for my usual hi-viz cycling attire, so I quietly slip into something more appropriate while I lock the bike to a lamppost. Entering the glamorous lobby – Fred and Ginger would look quite at home dancing here – I inevitably feel like a fish out of water… but, what the hell, I can pull it off, I just have to pretend to fit in. Which rather sets the tone for the next seventy minutes. Soon divested of my smart jacket, I’m in waiter’s uniform, running though the distinctly unglamorous back corridors, trying to keep up with my officious new supervisor’s orders. Then I’m front-of-house again, with a queeny waiter in the sumptuous bar, setting tables and taking dinner orders from a bickering adulterous couple, but suddenly I’m in the lift, zooming up to the second floor, delivering room service. Entering the room, I’ve been transported back to the 1930s and I’m pouring tea for a pretty newlywed. And so it goes on… I take a personality test in the spa, create a marketing slogan in a conference room, ride in the laundry lift, dictate a secret message to a prisoner-of-war in Italy, search a penthouse suite for a closeted gay Norwegian actor (he wasn’t in the closet, I checked) and make a dash into a getaway car from the goods-in yard pursued by a Daily Mail reporter; I travel back and forth in time, above and below stairs, meeting celebrity guests and lowly staff, being asked to think on my feet and not get lost. There must be around twenty actors in the piece and their work is uniformly good; subtle and detailed and delivered with tireless energy, they control the drama, the level of response and, crucially, the timing. Logistically, the event is astonishing and the constant slight-of-hand is hugely impressive. The strands of the stories sort of come together at the end, and I totally admire the company for delivering a narrative (or two), when so much of this type of theatre is abstract and packed with casual philosophy. I did want to be allowed to play more of a role in the drama; despite running around and chatting a lot, I felt strangely passive. Towards the end, sat at a table opposite a somewhat lost, slightly drunken young man, I wanted to be the one to solve his family dilemma, but was rushed on to the next scene before I could tell him all I had learned of the true story of Nora and Albert. The final magical moments of Above and Beyond are beautifully performed and a thrilling display of theatrical logistics; I happily would have settled for a more subdued conclusion that truly reflected the human stories that had gone before. The company have clearly gained the trust of their hosts and they wonderfully celebrate both the resilient past and confident present of the Corinthia (and just seeing the penthouse and its view is a revelation); it was a lot of fun to briefly run around on that journey with them.