The Hotel Plays return to The Vineyard hotel this July with a third South African premiere of a Tennessee Williams classic play.
Peter Tromp caught up with MARCEL MEYER of Abrahamse & Meyer Productions to get the inside scoop on their latest theatrical collaboration, ‘In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel’.
How did the Hotel Plays concept come to fruition and what sparked the idea.
The first edition of The Hotel Plays was launched at the Vineyard Hotel in 2016 with a double bill made up of the South African premiere of Tennessee Williams’ sizzling Vietnam War play ‘Green Eyes’, and his languid and poetic ‘Talk To Me Like The Rain And Let Me Listen’, set in two different suites at the Vineyard. The following year we presented two outrageous, darkly comic plays: ‘A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot’, performed by life-size puppets; and then another SA premiere of Williams’ most bizarre play, ‘The Remarkable Rooming House of Mme. Le Monde’. Both editions also included a mouth-watering, three-course wine paired dinner from the Vineyard’s award-winning culinary team. From as early as the 1930s until his death in a hotel room in 1983, Tennessee Williams wrote a series of short plays set in hotel rooms. We were inspired by our colleagues at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival in the USA who, in 2009, presented the first site-specific production of these plays under the collective title, ‘The Hotel Plays’. Since then, selections of these plays have been performed in actual hotel rooms across the USA and in London, affording audiences the unique opportunity to experience some of Williams’ best writing, up-close and personal, in an exclusive, fully immersive, site-specific environment.
Please recount your first moment of being exposed to Tennessee Williams’ writing, what the medium was and what that exposure sparked in you.
Since I was a very young child, I had been a big fan of screen legend Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor had starred in several screen versions of Williams’ classic plays, like ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ (1958), ‘Suddenly, Last Summer’ (1959), ‘Boom!’ – the film version of ‘Milk Train’ (1968) and ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’ (1989). So, that was my initial contact with Williams’ writing – seeing those films at a very early age. I was also an avid reader of plays and consumed every Tennessee Williams play I could get my hands on. I grew up in very conservative, small town, where being artistic and different was frowned on and made fun of. But, suddenly, here in the Tennessee Williams movies and books was a world in which being different, being the outcast was celebrated and championed. His words and the imaginary worlds he created gave me a place where I belonged and fit in.
Why should theatregoers be excited for your production of ‘In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel’?
This is not just a play; it is an experience with a capital E. ‘In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel’ promises to be one of the most unique theatrical events of the year. This is totally immersive theatre; there is no division between actors and audience. You, as the audience, will be right in the heart of the action. Added to that, Williams has always been known for writing incredible roles for women, and Miriam Conley is one of his most dynamic creations. Audiences are not going to want to miss the exquisite Melissa Haiden give the performance of her life, dressed in a series of form-fitting couturier creations. And if that wasn’t enough, top chef Mike Basset has created an Asian fusion three course meal to be enjoyed between the acts of the play accompanied by a hand-picked selection of wines from up and coming female winemakers. What more could audiences ask for? Fine wine, fine food and the city’s top actors and director in Fred Abrahamse presenting one of Williams’ most ethereal and haunting plays.
* ‘In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel’ can be seen at The Vineyard Hotel, Newlands, from July 12 to August 17, on select dates.
Tickets are R650 and can be booked by sending an email to: email@example.com; or by calling 021 657 4500.