Todd MacDonald, performer, Hotelling

With Hotelling, the audience will literally be sitting around the table eating dinner with me. It's going to be very intimate ...

Gold Coast, meet Todd MacDonald. He’s a familiar face for many different reasons – he has graced our television screens with multiple rolls since the late 1990s (yes, he was Darren Stark on Neighbours), paved the way for emerging actors in the independent theatre scene by co-founding Melbourne’s The Store Room Theatre in 1999, and is now the artistic director and CEO of La Boite Theatre Company in Brisbane. On November 1–5, Todd will be on the Gold Coast as a main performer in the genre-bending artistic showcase Hotelling. This year’s Hotelling concept has been described as ‘the mother of all last suppers’, and will ultimately take the form of a decadent, seductive and over-the-top penthouse party at Peppers Soul. It’s intriguing, exciting and quite literally like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The suspense was way too much for us, so we caught up with Todd to delve deep into the world of Hotelling to give us an insight as to what’s in store this time around.

We’re excited to see you as a big part of this year’s instalment of Hotelling on the Gold Coast! Tell us, what can we expect?
Rehearsals have begun already, and we’re all pretty amazed about how immersive it’s going to be. This is going to be quite an extraordinary and really unique experience for audiences. My favourite performances are very immersive and I really enjoy intimate work, and with Hotelling you’re right up in the middle of it. We’re working in this incredible site at Peppers Soul, so the rehearsals there have been one thing, but having audiences in there with us and sharing the journey with us is going to be quite, ah, intense!  The audience can affect the work directly by being how they are. If you go to say the movies or the theatre, you’re just sitting there in the dark – but with Hotelling, the audience will literally be sitting around the table eating dinner with me. It’s going to be very intimate.

So, for the uninitiated, how would you best explain the concept of Hotelling?
I think with Hotelling, people get an extremely unique experience in that they get to be really intimate with the performers. The fourth wall is removed, but not in that awkward ‘theatre participation’ kind of way where people get terrified of being dragged up on stage. I think the difference is that with Hotelling, we’ve removed the ‘stage’, so it’s not a setting that asks you to sit back and observe … it’s actually, in a way, asking people that want to be involved to come and do that. It’s much more proactive and gives the audience more authorship so they’ve got a stronger agenda in the work.

You were also part of Hotelling at QT Gold Coast last year as The Crying Man. How is this year going to be different for audiences?
I was on the other side last year, so as a performer in that setting, I never really got to see what the audience sees. Though, I got to see how people responded to the immersive work. This year it’s a more singular experience. You’re going into one narrative and one character’s story, which has multiple facets to it. You’re going up there to meet Richard Hightower and you’ll experience a whole series of components and facets of his internal and external life.

So, it’s time to enlighten us – who is Richard Hightower?
With his character, we’re very much looking into someone that is incredibly wealthy and we’re pushing into elements like his mortality, who he is, how he lives in the world and how he interacts. He feels more comfortable with strangers and he is much older than he looks. When you’ve lived for that long and have gone beyond the boundaries of just families and friends, you develop a different perspective on the world. He is trying to find different values that aren’t just monetary. It’s interesting though, because we are sort of building him as we go, in a way – which is very much in the style of Hotelling.

What do you think people will take away from Hotelling this year?
There is no doubt it is going to be a completely extraordinary and entertaining experience in itself. There will be novelty to it and a theatricality about it that will be very entertaining and really satisfying on that level alone. I would think that people will reflect a little bit on themselves by experiencing something through someone else. There are always politics involved when you’re talking about money and status and all of those things, but it will be more about how people connect with this human being (Richard Hightower) and how he connects with them, and I hope that will allow people to go off and think a little harder about they look at things like money, status and privilege.

After years in television and film, would you say now that your happy place is on the stage?
With site-specific projects like Hotelling, there is no stage craft in the traditional sense, it’s live, you have to respond in the moment and there is no director yelling ‘cut’. Interestingly, fascninating projects like this are actually my happiest place at the moment. I find this style to be a beautiful mix between film and theatre.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
That’s a really great question … if you’re going to do something, do it properly.
Hotelling is being held at Peppers Soul in Surfers Paradise from November 1–5, 2017. Head over here for all the info and for ticket bookings.


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