Spotlight On… Producer of Hotel Europe, David Ralf

Loose Tongue in association with Green Rooms Hotel and the Old Red Lion Theatre present HOTEL EUROPE – a meditation on borders impassable, invisible, broken, and rebuilt.

The Green Rooms Hotel

When you arrive at HOTEL EUROPE, where you’re from doesn’t matter. But your key could take you anywhere. Explore a building where behind every door is a new story, a new place, a new perspective. Part interactive theatre, part audio installation, these five aural snapshots give the listener privileged access to secret histories, treasured, passed down, forgotten, or threatened.

HOTEL EUROPE is created by Isley Lynn (Skin A Cat, Little Stitches) and Philipp Ehmann (Sie Und Wir, Rozznjogd) with emerging and award winning writers Tom Black, Ben Hudson, Rafaella Marcus, Gael Le Cornec and Milly Thomas, and hosted by the Green Rooms Hotel in Wood Green.

With sound designed by Will Alder, HOTEL EUROPE uses radio drama techniques alongside binaural recordings à la Simon McBurney’s The Encounter and a variety of hidden and repurposed technology to immerse audience members in plays that feature voice talents of Jessica Clark (Rotterdam), Liz Jadav (The Twits, Stone Face), and many more.

Step inside the skin of a stranger, and explore their world…

HOTEL EUROPE will present five short audio plays, each of which inhabits its own hotel room, where solo audience members will have free reign to engage and with the worlds of the story, real and imaginary.

HOTEL EUROPE will run all day from 11am-10pm, Mon 20th – Sun 26th Feb.

After the run at Green Rooms, HOTEL EUROPE will also be available as a digital experience, supported by MGCfutures and created in partnership with Epiphany VR, allowing the rest of the UK & the world to experience the pieces.


Here’s an exclusive interview with Producer, David Ralf…

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, David. Tell me about Hotel Europe.

HOTEL EUROPE is a series of audio & design installations in five hotel rooms at Green Rooms Hotel in Wood Green. We commissioned five writers to each tell us a story about Europe. We kept the brief as broad as possible, and we’ve ended up with five hugely different stories, talking about everything from dual citizenship and Welsh mine closures, to fleeing Nazis and restrictions on free movement.

The stories also vary in terms of genre – encapsulating personal histories, ghost stories and even political dystopias, and we hope that each room will be its own little world, designed around the audio performances that we’ve recorded. Audience members will enter and listen to each piece on their own, in an order they choose. It’s a meditative and exploratory experience.

What was the inspiration?

Isley Lynn, who wrote the fantastic Skin a Cat (Vaults & The Bunker) and Philipp Ehrmann, an Austrian director who works in immersive and interactive theatre, had been talking about creating some site specific work in a hotel. On the morning after the EU Referendum result, Isley and I chatted about creating some rapid response work following the Brexit decision. And as we talked further the two ideas began to feel like they might have something to offer one another.

I’m really pleased that we didn’t try to make something two weeks after the Brexit result – sometimes theatre can do that kind of immediate work really well, but I think that that bit of distance from the result makes the reflection offered in these pieces a bit less argumentative (pro or con) and a bit more contemplative, which I think is maybe of more use to people right now.

We want audiences to be thinking about borders, and citizenship, and belonging, and union, not necessarily about Article 50. I love the idea of Europe being a collection of countries like a hotel is a collection of rooms, and I love all the imprecise associations that it calls to mind.

What can we expect from the various characters?

There’s so much variety. There are twenty characters across the five pieces. We have Italian grandmothers and booming-voiced underground creatures, illegal aliens and all manners of naturalised parents – that’s one of the really interesting things that’s come out of this project – several of the pieces are written from the second- and third-generation immigrant experience, what they call the ‘dreamers’ in America, and here are just folks trying to synthesise two different cultures. There’s those questions of how you raise your children if they have no experience of your homeland, whether they should learn your native language, and whether they are, or can be citizens of two places. They’re all characters who are wrestling with identity, but not in an abstract way – in a feet-on-the-ground, life-changing-decisions-to-be-made way!

Did you have particular actors in mind to play the roles? What were you looking for from each performer?

I directed the audio performances of the pieces, with the fantastic sound designer Will Alder at my side, and got in a fantastic cast. It was a serious challenge to find people who could get to grips with some of the challenges that the accents, languages, and emotional precision that these pieces demanded. But because you’re recording the performances, you can get brilliant and busy actors to come in and do half a day of work. I worked with a bunch of fantastic actors that I’d encountered previously at The Hope Theatre (where I’m an Associate Producer) including Lin Sagovsky, Greg Ashton, and Dan Simpson, and actors that I’ve wanted to work with for ages, such as Liz Jadav who had a day off the tour of The Twits and came in to the studio, and Jessica Clark who worked with Isley on Skin A Cat. Tom Black, one of our writers who has written and performed with DugOut Theatre for years (Swansong, Inheritance Blues) came in and recorded one of the parts in his piece. And there were brand new faces as well, recommended by other folk on the team, and by the writers themselves.

Finally, sell it to me and my readers!

Wherever you’re from, and whereever you feel you belong on this continent, this is a chance to immerse yourself in five different European tales, historical and personal, real and imaginary, hidden inside a working hotel.

Thanks to David for a fantastic interview, wishing you all the best with it!

Spotlight On… Writer of Skin A Cat, Isley Lynn

Semi-autobiographical, Skin a Cat is a personal and ambitious story of sexual discovery and dysfunction, exploring the challenges and consequences of not having a ‘normal’ sex life. Alana’s journey is unique and yet Skin a Cat speaks to our shared experiences with joy, candour and levity making a difficult subject more accessible. It will run from 12 October to 5 November 2016 and you can follow this link for more information and to book tickets:

I interviewed Isley about the piece, here’s what she had to say:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and the inspiration for it.

I’m basically fixated on new stories and fresh perspectives – I wrote Skin a Cat because I didn’t see my experiences of sex reflected in the media around me. It felt important to put a story out there that was honest and unflinching and not the same old representation of female sexuality as a binary of repressed vs rampantly promiscuous. Alana, like most of us, is somewhere in the middle and it’s complicated.

Was it an easy play to write and how has it translated from page to stage?

It was easy to write and easy to stage – it was just getting the right team to do it with that took a long time. I’m picky about who I work with but once Blythe Stewart took hold of the text and we found three fantastic actors to bring it to life it took off in ways that surprised everyone – but that’s definitely because we took our time finding the right people to work on it in every aspect. And when everyone wants to achieve the same thing and we all have clarity about what that is then the work is straightforward and intuitive.

What were your main considerations when casting it?

When casting (and choosing directors) I always look for people who have the same ideas about the text as I do, who are likeminded in what they see in the script and have the same motivations for doing the play. That way everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet from the beginning and rehearsals are a collaboration where everyone’s creatively contributing. For Skin a Cat we looked for actors who were talented, adventurous, playful, and hard-working – and we got them!


How does the venue lend itself to the piece?

The Bunker is very hip and cool so I guess that means the play is very hip and cool and for someone who has spent their whole life being very unhip and very uncool that’s pretty nice. Apart from the space itself being ideal for large audiences without sacrificing on intimacy, The Bunker are also great allies and are actively involved in the mounting of the show, very supportive and responsive to our needs and keenly interested in hosting an event that expands the experience of the show beyond its running time. It’s very exciting to be the first show there, we all feel like rock stars.

What do you feel the main theme might evoke in audience members?

I remember watching an audience member’s reaction to the penultimate scene at one of the Vault shows – they were bent forward, eyes fixed on Lydia Larson (who plays Alana), nodding and grinning almost furiously, physically willing her to make an important realisation in the play’s final moments. It was so inspiring to see because it meant the play had taken them on a journey that they were totally immersed and invested in. And they weren’t the only one. I can’t wait to see those reactions again.

What would you say to encourage audience members to come?

It’s very very funny. Lydia is hilarious and heart breaking, Jassa (Ahluwalia) is silly and sexy in equal measure and Jessica (Clark) is totally endearing and compelling in whatever role she inhabits – those who saw her in Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam will know what I mean. Plus there’s plenty of willy jokes. And there’s the added prestige of being at the first show of what is set to become the coolest theatre for adventurous new work – definitely “I was there” material.

Thanks so much Isley, wishing you all the best with the production.

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