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I Do by Dante or Die 10Once again, I found myself in a hotel lobby waiting for a show to begin. This time, the Hilton in Islington was the setting and we were about to witness the final fifteen minutes before a wedding was going to take place. Divided into groups, we were taken into six different hotel rooms where the same time period played out repeatedly. As we moved from room to room, a theatrical jigsaw-puzzle gradually pieced itself together. In my first room, a random fella who came in and kissed the Best Man passionately; later we would see him cavorting in his underwear with his girlfriend, before grabbing his clothes and rushing out confused – and, of course, we now knew he was on his way to go and kiss the Best Man. Many similar tricks were placed throughout the piece, from the missing bridesmaid to the choice of the Mother-of-the-Bride’s hat. We were invisible to the actors, who moved around ignoring us and running into us if we were in their way. There was plenty to catch the eye as each room was filled with the messiness of hotel visitors and the detritus of weddings. And this was not an easy wedding. It seemed to be a bit of a rushed job, the Best Man drafted in at the last minute, the bride’s mother taking too much control, the groom somewhat confused by what was going on, the Bride in a right old state. Most devastating was our time with the grandparents, as the silent elderly man was dressed by his wife and years of miscommunication were revealed. The Bride’s estranged parents’ uneasy reunion was particularly powerful and the unnerving latent racism over the choice of husband-to-be was palpable throughout. It was constantly engaging, requiring concentration and commitment from both actor and audience, and while it never felt uncomfortable, it certainly felt intimate and strangely voyeuristic. The finale in the corridor, focussing on the trainee cleaner who had been the only character to visit every room, allowed us to see the same time period once again from a new angle, but I could have done with something a little more ambitious, perhaps a little more abstract, that added to the narrative. But this was a hugely successful piece, masterfully in control of its complicated logistics, emotionally engaging and full of sadness, honestly and enterprise.

I’ve worked with Dante or Die at the National, and it was really good to see that they were part of the Almeida Festival and genuinely developing the scale and content of their work.

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