“Angel Delight, at a funeral?”
In the august surroundings of Brighton’s Regency Square, the Hotel Pelirocco is something of a subversive delight inside – a boutique hotel with an extraordinary range of themed bedrooms inspired by the likes of Bettie Page, Diana Dors, Lee “Scratch” Perry and The Sex Pistols. And it is in Bettie’s Boudoir – who knew you could fit so much leopardprint into one room… – that Caroline Byrne’s In A Better Place begins, as we eavesdrop on a squabbling couple.
They’re arguing because they’ve missed the funeral they came down to Brighton for, increasingly suspicious behaviour from Jay causing Priya to question her husband but neither are in the mood for talking, never mind paying belated tribute to their friend Eva. So she cools her heels whilst straightening her hair and he heads down to the bar (as do the audience) to catch up with his mates but the unwitting banter that follows unleashes a whole world of seriously pent-up marital strife.
It’s an interesting concept, the idea of eavesdropping on private conversation, and one which is undoubtedly heightened by being pressed into the intimacy of a hotel room. Byrne and director Scott Le Crass wisely return the action to the bedroom (oo-er) for the play’s final scene as the middle section in the bar-room doesn’t come off quite as effectively, too remote and static as Jay and his pals literally prop up the bar reminisce about the deceased, the former pop star Eva, and compete over how close they were to her.
Rather, it is in Jace Desay and Mariam Rasekh’s performances that the production causes real sparks – the curt passive-aggressiveness, the furious declamations, the reproachful realisations, the deconstruction of their relationship is skilfully written and handled – even if perhaps there’s a little too much dwelling on food (they co-own a catering business) as a metaphor for their partnership.
Curious and effective, it’s a production worth catching, not least because it is site-responsive as well as site-specific, one could well imagine someone like Eva being a regular at the Hotel Pelirocco and the ageing rockers of Paul James Trussell and Dougal Porteous fit in perfectly too (they’re probably top-and-tailing in Modrophenia). There really couldn’t be a better place for In A Better Place – now who’s going to book the Nookii room for me…