The entire cast of The Hot House are exceptional. As good as one might possibly expect from the cast of a West-End play. Similarly, the staging is equally accomplished. On the face of it, interpreting the ‘Hot House’ title literally, and turning the Trafalgar Studios into a something resembling the Palm House at Kew is a risk, but it’s one that pays off. Unfortunately this doesn’t transfer into an enjoyable experience.
It’s far from unpleasant; the performances and relatively short running time mean that at no stage does it become dull, but the narrative doesn’t pay off. We move through two acts of barely connected events, building into a reveal that isn’t set up. What’s irritating is that this seems to be a directorial choice, rather than a product of the script. It would have been relatively simple for the director, Jamie Lloyd, to have woven some set up into the nuances of the performances, but for reasons that aren’t clear, he simply didn’t.
The result of this is that the play never feels coherent, and the ending, far from being the satisfying pay-off we’ve been building to robs the rest of the play of any emotional resonance. Of course, that isn’t to say that there’s nothing to appeal: Simm, Russel Beale and Varma are fantastic performers, at the top of their game; the set is a masterpiece, and the lighting design is beautiful. It’s just that for those more used to the work of Sam Peckinpah than Harold Pinter, it’s probably going to be a slightly unsatisfying experience.