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The Grand Exotic Budapescht Hotel - Review

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by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
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Funnier than Fawlty, finer than Fiennes
You've read the book of a similar name and seen Ralph Fiennes in the movie, yet you yearn for more... and here it is, The Grand Exotic Budapescht Hotel, a fully improvised soap opera performed by the clever team at Impro Melbourne.

Impro Melbourne's Joint Artistic Director, Patti Stiles, guides the proceedings by introducing each scene and calling up the cast members to be involved. The ten cast members participating in the show wait impatiently, or perhaps anxiously, in the front row of seats until they are called, and then must take to the stage to progressively build on the story in some (loosely) logical way.

Leading the way in the opening night production was veteran improv actor Jenny Lovell, who convincingly takes on the role of the Countess, a guest at the hotel. She plays a pivotal role in the production, being variously wooed by the hotel concierge, Theodore Jones (Tim Redmond) and the consultant doctor/veterinarian/taxidermist Dr Hans Ffootee (Jason Geary).

Impro Melbourne's The Grand Exotic Budapescht Hotel
The Countess (Jenny Lovell) with the hotel's concierge (Tim Redmond) and maid (Amy Moule)

Jones' twin brother Jacque (Jaime Cerda) proves to be something of a playboy, drinking too much and attempting to win the affections of the rather scary head of security, played by Rama Nicholas.

Things don't go entirely according to plan when the hotel's Cook (Sarah Kinsella) goes shooting for rabbits, leading to a major security incident.

Impro Melbourne's The Grand Exotic Budapescht Hotel
The knife-and-gun wielding Cook (Sarah Kinsella), with guest Montgomery St Clair (Adam MacKenzie)

Meanwhile, hotel staff including the French maid Yvette Odette (Amy Moule), and bell boy Tomas (Simon Oates) hold the fort and make sure new guests, including Montgomery St Clair (Adam MacKenzie) are comfortably settled into their rooms.

Impro Melbourne's The Grand Exotic Budapescht Hotel
Montgomery St Clair (Adam MacKenzie) waxes lyrical with the hotel concierge (Tim Redmond) and the bellboy (Simon Oats)

If you see the show, don't necessarily expect to see any of these scenes - remember the whole show is improvised, and it could go in a completely different direction in future shows. There will presumably be a rotation of cast members too, from the 20 plus players in the Impro Melbourne team, and new actors will, of course, bring a fresh take to the production.

The two actors I felt particularly deserved plaudits on the night were Amy Moule as the maid, who seemingly became more and more over-the-top French as the show went on, and the slightly off beam, gun and knife-wielding cook, Sarah Kinsella.

This was a good solid opening night, highly entertaining, with lots of laughs. The production will no doubt grow and evolve with subsequent shows.

One suggestion for strengthening the show is that the players look for opportunities to more directly involve/engage the audience (or perhaps it is the audience that needs to look for those opportunities). We enjoyed being 'killer rabbits' - more of that please!

If you're looking for two hours of fun, escapism, and rapier sharp wit, tinged with an element of craziness, you can be guaranteed it at The Grand Exotic Budapescht Hotel.

The show plays at the David Williamson Theatre, 35 St John Street, Prahran from 7.30 - 9.30pm each Sunday night until 16th September.

Tickets are: adult - online $17, $22 at the door; concession: $17 (at the door only). Click here to buy tickets online.

Recommended for a 15 years plus audience.

The images in this review were taken by the writer.
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*Fiona Anderson was invited as a guest
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Why? Two hours of pure entertainment guaranteed to shake off the winter blues.
When: 7.30 - 9.30pm each Sunday night until 16th September
Phone: (03) 9269 1200
Where: David Williamson Theatre, 35 St John Street, Prahran
Cost: Adult: online $17, $22 at the door; concession $17 at door only
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