The Lobby

Jun 16 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆   Comic energy

Out of the Blue Drill Hall: Thurs 15 – Sat 17 Jun 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Lobby, from Active Inquiry’s Flashback Theatre Company at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall, is a politically informed comedy where the laughs are definitely the priority.

The show’s publicity claims it shows ‘how incompetent leadership and style over substance are unfortunately part of our everyday lives’. Such a message is an especially timely one, and is expressed in what is essentially a good old-fashioned farce from writer Poppy Smith.

A scene from The Lobby. Pic: Dariusz Lis

The staff of the Seaview Hotel have to deal with celebrity arrivals, faulty plumbing and a guest who has apparently expired. The idea of the manager of a rundown hotel whose aspirations are several levels above his degree of incompetence, and who has to hide a dead body from the guests, is not exactly an original one.

Full marks for chutzpah in so explicitly evoking the spirit of Fawlty Towers, especially when that programme is famous for being as carefully and tightly scripted as possible. This is a much looser affair. Its running time of under an hour features no less than 15 characters, many of whom have very little time to make the audience care about them, or even be sure of who they are. The 70s sitcom feel is further enhanced by the hotel’s star guests being a cartoonishly depicted punk band.

drive and humour

Credit then to writer Smith and director Gavin Crichton for fashioning a production with this much drive and humour. The action is extremely well timed and there is a pleasing energy throughout.

Paul Dobie gives the self-obsessed hotel manager – always just teetering on the edge of sanity – immense vitality, while Joseph Travers’s otherworldly bartender Lee provides a surreal edge.

A scene from The Lobby. Pic: Dariusz Lis

Lucy Hale’s receptionist gives it a grounding in real life, which also comes from Judit Hadju and Paul Hughes as put-upon guests. Steve Miller and Dave Poyner, as more exaggerated guests, have considerable comic presence.

The programme states that the play was devised by the company, and there is a definite feeling that the number of characters onstage is determined more by the number of available performers rather than any narrative demands. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and does mean that everyone has real investment in their roles.

effort and grace

All of the other roles – Gwen Currie and Ady Wilkinson’s hotel staff, Hayley Griffin, Lesley Taylor, Catie Lovers and Brian Davies as the musicians, David Nicol as their assistant, Michael Shaw as a police officer – are discharged with the maximum of effort and grace.

The acting space is used notably well, and interaction with the audience is cleverly and sparingly used. There is the odd problem with audibility (and there is no getting around the fact that it is neither startlingly original nor particularly sensible) but the time fairly flies by. The outright farcical elements work well, with some bravura falling over, and indeed could be dialled up a little, with even more pace being advisable.

A scene from The Lobby. Pic: Dariusz Lis

Design (from Natacha Lee, Nicola Milazzo and Eve Murray) is top notch, with furniture and minimal props artfully evoking a hotel reception area.

The efforts of all concerned make light of the fact that the Drill Hall’s largely glass roof leads to the unusual occurrence of an indoor theatre audience resorting to hats and sunglasses. That sunshine does also mean that some clever use of projection has less impact than it deserves.

Such an unprecedented early June heatwave, however, does highlight the failure of our leaders to act on the climate emergency, and helps to reinforce the idea of the showiest and most self-promoting achieving power. In the best tradition of politically informed theatre, any message here is couched in comedic terms, and lands with some success.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 36 Dalmeny St, EH6 8RG
Thursday 15 – Saturday 17 June 2023
Thurs & Sat at 7.00 pm, Fri at 6.00 and 8.00 pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Company website:
Facebook: @activeinquiry1
Twitter: @ActiveInquiry

A scene from The Lobby. Pic: Dariusz Lis


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.