Last Updated on 10th August 2023
Paul T Davies reviews The Grand Old Opera House Hotel at the Traverse Theatre presented as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Grand Old Opera House Hotel
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
9 August 2023
Sometimes, often, I find myself moved by the heartbreak that I see represented in many stories at the Fringe. Occasionally though my heart soars, and it’s certainly the case with this wonderful, joyful production. I’ve seen many things at the Traverse, but I don’t think I’ve seen farce and opera fused so successfully in Isobel MacArthur’s script, performed by an ensemble of exceptional talent.
The hotel is built on the grounds of the old Grand Opera House, destroyed by flames with the leading performers allegedly singing their final aria as the flames engulfed them. But the hotel is a health and safety nightmare, the electrics keep fusing, plumbing is a disaster and doors become locked. When shy Aaron arrives for staff training, he sees a vision of what he believes is a ghost, but it’s opera loving Amy singing along to her Walkman. Her voice, and ghosts, keep crashing through, and he sets out to find her.
The farce element is brilliantly executed, but just as it threatened to become irritating, Ali Watt’s Aaron burst into song, and from that moment on you’re completely on his side. Karen Fishwick is superb as Amy, vulnerable and lonely, and what an excellent voice. The rest of the company, Christina Madestou, Ann Louise Ross, Betty Valencia, Laura Lovemore, and Barrie Hunter, play an array of staff and guests, all finely drawn and hilarious, from quick cameos to opera stars and impressive teddy bear work.
It’s the final half hour, when the show becomes an opera, with a mash-up of well-known tunes and original music by Michael John McCarthy, that the production soars as high as the wonderful vocals. This Traverse Theatre production in partnership with Dundee Rep, superbly directed by Gareth Nicholls, is an absolute delight, and one not to be missed! It also demonstrates the power of the voice, and art, and love, to conquer all!