Let’s agree that the Genesian is an equal opportunity employer and that anyone who has a passion for performing or technical work or directing will probably get a go and maybe, just sometimes, they probably shouldn’t. Other times I have been pleasantly surprised by what’s come out of this tiny theatre and its dedicated band of members. Their commitment is faultless. Talent is not so guaranteed.
This was the case in their latest production of ‘Hotel Sorrento’. Hannie Rayson’s play is a difficult and ambitious ask because it is filmic and episodic in structure and on stage it can and it did feel clunky and piecemeal because director Shane Bates has pushed for set locations in every scene and turned up the obvious meter on full volume. As a result we see actors carrying out chairs for a two minute scene or having to move walls and counters to play their two minute scene and so it goes. Aaron Harvey’s set certainly allowed for some interesting lighting scapes for Timothy M Carter to play with and there were lots of open spaces for action to occur but it all felt a bit hard and it struggled to find momentum. Let’s not even talk about the one scene that had completely the wrong lighting state for a good two minutes whilst the cast performed in semi-darkness. It’s the hit and miss of amateur theatrics. Some days are diamonds, some days are stones. This show was a boulder.
This was a play in a hurry to move and the slow development of characters and relationships seemed to be missing, as was the ever elusive tension. The Genesian production of ‘Hotel Sorrento’ was trying just too damn hard and fell short.
There were some nice transient moments of talent on stage, even if the blocking was contrived. The actors were giving it their all and even though there was some confusion over the native English accent of one of the Australian characters, Marge, Lynn Turnbull-Rose put in the strongest performance of the cast and tried to find the truth for her character that made us at least believe her intentions.
There was a distinct lack of subtlety across the board in this production and it meant the stakes weren’t high enough for us as audience to really engage in the characters’ dilemmas. It made this relatively short play feel a whole lot longer and I don’t think its audience, as forgiving as they are, was as completely satisfied as it usually is in what is produced there.
I admire the intentions of the Genesians, I just don’t always admire the work. ‘Hotel Sorrento’ squarely fits that bill.