I was drawn to the premise of this new play by David Hendon, capturing 3 different moments occurring on the same date,11th Sept, in the same room, 119, of The Grand Hotel in Brighton. To be fair, I have a bit of a thing for numbers that borders on the superstitious. Unfortunately The Grand doesn’t fulfill its potential.
There are definitely elements to enjoy. The cast (Thomas Deller, Emily O’Mahony and Eloise Jones) work hard, and I enjoyed Paula Chitty’s set design (she also directs). There is a connection between the 1943 and 2001 stories that comes out of the blue, but does help resolve the first story, which had felt unfinished until that point. However, overall there is a lack of dramatic drive to the play and it doesn’t offer a clear or coherent point of view, despite choosing to focus on politically rich moments in time. The play does highlight that when one war ends, another inevitably begins, forming a relentless and depressing pattern, a point that is spelt out in the 1982 story line, but it doesn’t dig any deeper than that.
In 1943 a couple meet to consummate their affair. She is married with a husband fighting overseas. He is a New Yorker, sent to Europe to fight the Germans. She is guilt-ridden but he claims to be in love with her. There is a lack of character development or revelation to their story, so I struggled to care what happened to them.
In 1982 two IRA operatives are in Room 119 to plant the bomb set to explode when Margaret Thatcher will be sleeping in the suite above the following month. Except have they been betrayed? Or worse, is one of them the traitor? The potential for psychological mind games here is not fully realised. The story sits on the surface, with no digging in to the deeper motivations for the different characters’ actions.
In 2001 a popstar, his girlfriend and a groupie wake up in the early afternoon, struggling with vicious hangovers they switch on the TV to discover that a plane has been flown into the World Trade Centre in New York. While they have nothing new to say about the evolving situation, this is the most engaging of the three stories, as there are a couple of interesting revelations within the piece.
Overall The Grand felt over long and clunky in places. The premise is interesting but lacks a deeper purpose, something for the audience to be challenged by or connect with.
The Grand runs at the King’s Head Theatre until 18th September. To find out more or book tickets, you can go here: https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/the-grand