At The Sans Hotel (2010)
An emotionally evocative and intricate psychological detective story. Loosely about, yet having nothing to do with a schizophrenic German woman who arrived at a hotel in the middle of the desert, At the Sans Hotel is an investigation into indecision and loneliness, identity and belonging.
The work begins with giant floor to ceiling photographs of people, one after the other, holding signs. A woman sits in the far corner of the frame almost unnoticed. The woman begins to talk. She tells the audience that her name is Sophie and that she is French. She suggests they get to know each other a little, have a little conversation. To break the ice, she tells them a story from her childhood about how she used to masturbate in the classroom in front of the teacher and other students and because nobody looked at her (in fact they all made a concerted effort to avoid looking at her altogether), she thought nobody could see her. The woman continues to talk. Finally, she reveals that Nicola Gunn is not here and that in fact the play, At the Sans Hotel, is cancelled. And yet, she tells the audience, they are all still here. The audience are invited to get drunk, play musical chairs, share cake and learn about the dramatic arc and how to make theatre. She is plunged into the desert and the audience follow.
Slipping between four characters and several languages, At the Sans Hotel is inspired by the Cornelia Rau affair, a woman wrongly incarcerated in an Australian detention centre as an illegal immigrant. Gunn’s interrogation of the German woman is a remarkable and indescribable character study that pulls together threads of narrative, seen and unseen, into an intimate and moving performance where nothing is as it seems.
“At the Sans Hotel is uniquely structured; its surface fragmentation belies the writing and performer’s ingenuity… Is it original, funny, smart, uncomfortable and beautiful? Absolutely.” The Age
“In her startling and innovative solo show, At the Sans Hotel, Nicola Gunn shatters theatrical conventions with alacrity and astonishes us with her idiosyncratic blend of humour and pathos.” Herald Sun
Creation & Performance NICOLA GUNN
Dramaturg LEISA SHELTON
Production Design REBECCA ETCHELL and NICOLA GUNN
Sound Design LUKE PAULDING
Lighting Design GWEN GILCHRIST
Videographer LYNDSEY DRESDEN
Video Editing DANIEL AGDAG