John Osborne became known as the ‘angry young man’ of British theatre after his play ‘Look Back In Anger’ first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 1956 catapulted him to international fame. His work was seen as a turning point in British theatre. Polite comedies and melodrama’s were soon to be replaced with far more bruising material. Jimmy Porter, the play’s main protagonist was seen as representing an entire generation of angry young men. The young generation that had lived through the war had finally arrived on stage.
In 1968 Osborne wrote “The Hotel In Amsterdam” and the play received the Evening Standard Award for Best Play of the Year. One can only conclude from this that 1968 must have been a fairly dismal year for plays! The Hotel In Amsterdam is a boring, plodding piece of self-indulgence that contains little in the way of angst, shock or introspection. The angry young generation had apparently grown into indolent tedious middle-class yuppies.
A group consisting of three professional couples that work in the film industry seek respite from the overwhelming demands of the imperious film producer KL. They have booked a hideaway in Amsterdam for a long weekend break, one where KL will not be able to locate them. Here they sit around in a state of languid disparagement. Relatives, airhostesses, Americans, and the French all receive blistering dollops of unrelenting derision.
Although the group have escaped KL’s presence, he is constantly referred to in conversation. It is as if the group anticipate him bursting into their presence at any moment with the same anxious expectation of truant school children about to be discovered by their teacher.
Amongst the group of six it is screenwriter Laurie who dominates the conversation, and even though Osborne has written some pungently droll monologues for this character they quickly grow wearisome, especially when you realise that these are the highlights of the play. Yes, there are a few revelations, a confidence broken, a love revealed, but despite what the programme notes say this is not a ‘chamber piece about friendship, betrayal and love’, not unless betrayal and love have become passionless creatures. Listening to friends talking about where to eat and what to wear is hardly tantalising stuff, and no matter how clever the sharp and witty observations of the leading character Laurie are, when he asks his friends “Is this boring?” I do not believe I was the only person in the audience who wanted to reply Yes!
The acting cannot be faulted and Tom Hollander gives a masterful performance as Laurie who riles with half-mocked rancorousness against the vicissitudes of life. Anthony Calf gives a good supporting performance as the amiable but inane Gus who laughs too heartily at Laurie’s jibes whilst berating the hotel staff. Susannah Harker and Olivia Williams add a touch of feminine charm to the proceedings as Margaret and Annie respectively.
The set design by Liz Ashcroft is of an elegant sixties suite with ample space for the cast to adopt listless postures. Although Robin LeFevre has assembled a wonderful cast that perform well together, alas there is little else to recommend this show.
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Laborious two-hour stretch.." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Immaculate revival." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Wish you weren't here in this dull hotel." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Cracking revival of this undervalued play from 1968." SARAH HEMMING for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "At the end of the evening, there is not much to take home."