The Grand Old Opera House Hotel

Aug 18 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Marvellous mayhem

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15): Fri 4 – Sun 27 Aug 2023
Review by Suzanne O’Brien

Isobel McArthur strikes again with The Grand Old Opera House Hotel, a wonderfully written fusion of farce and opera running the full length of the fringe.

Following on from Kidnapped at the Lyceum and the Olivier-award success of Pride and Prejudice (sort of), this Traverse Theatre Company production with Dundee Rep truly is a gem of a show.

Ann Louise Ross, Christina Modestou, Ali Watt, Laura Lovemore and Betty Valencia. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Set in the mundane-looking Scomodo hotel, this is far from boring with its crazy characters and impressive vocal performances. The hotel’s past life as The Grand Old Opera House is very much present and there is immediately a haunting feel, with its flickering lights and spooky rumours.

On Aaron’s (Ali Watt) first training day at the hotel, he falls in love with what he believes to be a singing ghost. However, it is just his opera-obsessed colleague Amy, played with an endearing innocence by Karen Fishwick.

not straightforward

When Amy discovers that Aaron has mistaken her for a ghost, she tries to make contact but, in this hotel, it is not straightforward. Every corridor looks the same and unreliable room number display screens cause endless confusion.

Karen Fishwick and Ali Watt. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Ana Inés Jabares-Pita’s impressive hotel corridor set design with multiple doors is used to great effect and cleverly folds away to reveal the inside of a hotel room. This is subsequently used as every single bedroom in the hotel with just a blackout in between indicating the change of setting. The three-level set design also includes a hotel rooftop and gives the impression of a vast hotel that one could quite possibly get lost in.

multi-talented ensemble

It is one laugh after another with over-the-top performances from a multi-talented ensemble cast. Particularly memorable roles include overworked and underpaid hotel staff such as Christina Modestou’s officious hotel manager and Betty Valencia’s brilliantly dry, unimpressed and over-qualified Colombian maid.

Under the slick direction of Gareth Nicholls, the ensemble, completed by Laura Lovemore, Barrie Hunter and Ann Louise Ross, also take turns playing crazy guests with endless demands that continue all through the night.

Barrie Hunter, Christina Modestou, Laura Lovemore and Karen Fishwick. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Amy may not be a ghost, but ghosts do make an appearance as the ensemble transforms into characters from recognisable operas, such as Carmen, wearing rather grand costumes. Their versatility is impressive especially when switching roles at such a high speed.

As the two young lovers continue their search for one another, the show gets increasingly more insane and ends in operatic mayhem. The integration of original music by John McCarthy and recognisable opera songs with lyrics to fit into the story is genius and extremely funny.

It may be a struggle to get a ticket for this run at the Traverse, but it is touring to Dundee Rep in September and it’s highly likely that we will be seeing this show again soon.

Running time: One hour and 30 minutes (no interval)
The Traverse (Trav 1), 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED (Venue 15)
Friday 4 – Sunday 29 August 2023 (not Mondays)
Various times, no shows on Mondays.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Dundee Rep, Tay Square, Dundee, DD1 1PB
Wednesday 13 – Saturday 16 September 2023
Evenings: 7.30pm, mats Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Traverse links

Twitter: @traversetheatre
Facebook: @TraverseTheatre
Instagram @traversetheatre


Below: Barrie Hunter, Christina Modestou, Laura Lovemore and Betty Valencia Above: Ali Watt and Karen Fishwick. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan



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