Claire Sullivan’s I Wish I Owned A Hotel For Dogs, at Gilded Balloon Teviot, is endearing in its absurdity but often leaves the audience searching for a punch line.
The theme of the night is the absurd. And dogs. As the audience enters the Balcony at Gilded Balloon Teviot for I Wish I Owned A Hotel for Dogs, they are met by Sullivan – dressed as an iceberg – who proceeds to melt into a puddle on the ground. She slaps on a techno beat and launches into a costume change whilst sarcastically chanting “I am Woman”, setting the tone for the bizarre, somewhat disjointed set that is to follow.
The show feels like a brainstorm. Material is chopped together in (seemingly) no particular order, to the point where Sullivan herself is looking at the mountain of props around her, searching for a clue as to what comes next. The agenda includes impressions, short stories, a poem, a quiz and, of course, a dog show, in which Sullivan dons homemade dog masks and struts the stage as a voiceover imparts a series of (almost) facts about each breed. She never hovers for more than a minute on each segment – her pace and energy is both endearing and exhausting.
Whilst there are shining moments of brilliance in the hour-long set, Sullivan often leaves the audience hanging, waiting for a punch line which isn’t quite there. Her short vignettes fail to provide the comic relief expected and the segmented nature of the show means that it never hits a satisfying crescendo.
The saving grace is Sullivan’s enthusiasm and commitment to her brainchild. Clever use of voiceovers, both as commentary for her dog show and inner monologue, lend themselves to her expressive face – and her nervous giggle in the wake of each joke is infectious, even when the gag itself falls flat.
This show will not be to everyone’s taste, but Claire is happy with the content, and you can tell. It is hard to feel sorry for her when she doesn’t get the laughs because it’s almost palpable how much she is enjoying herself, and you’ll find yourself happy to be along for the ride.