“Director of Chaos is pretty much exactly what it is,” says Prudence Granger, musing on her job title. As the simultaneous greeter, guide and co-ordinator for arrivals at Sydney’s QT Hotel, she is one of a cast of dozens who don full make-up and a red wig to act as the face of the boutique hotel.
“My personality is very zany and I feel it’s a flamboyant, over-the-top kind of job. You have guests coming and going constantly,” explains Granger, adding that Directors work with concierges and porters to ensure the little logistical details of checking-in run smoothly. “It’s a bit different to most hotels. But honestly, most of the job is talking to guests and talking to people on the street about the hotel and having fun – being the first point-of-contact for the hotel.”
The hotel is ‘high concept’ in that it is deeply theatrical and referential. There are elements of the original Gowings building where the hotel now rests, but it calls to mind the styles of Alice in Wonderland, parlour rooms, boudoirs and the art deco movement. It’s all tied together with a dark playfulness and penchant for the absurd. For instance, Granger explains that when taking the elevators alone – which happens quite often if you’re working – sensors will register a single person and speakers will play tracks like All by Myself. It is the kind of place where the staff need to match the audaciousness of the design, so it makes sense that a Director of Chaos calls on extroversion and affability above all else.
Granger explains that her previous experience with clubs made her a good fit. But with QT Sydney’s first round of recruitment they made it clear that it wasn’t about résumés and experience so much as personality, with interviews more akin to an audition process. Which is fitting, since the job is part theatre and part logistics.
Following Granger to the makeup room is a lot like being backstage at a gig; it’s a maze of rooms, pushing through double doors and staff zipping every which way. In the makeup room there are cutouts of Kate Moss and Tilda Swinton as visual notes for current QT hairstyles (while the Directors wear a wig, other staff members have their hair done before shifts too).
QT’s hair and makeup artist braids Granger’s into two thick plaits and wraps them around her head. They examine the make-up and pick out colours and discuss highlighters, Granger notes that she’s so used to stage make-up that natural make-up seems odd to her. Girls flit in and out talking about last night’s shift and the number of arrivals due for today. It’s the sort of idle chatter that happens before any performance. A cupboard full of red wigs, all just slightly different, is flung open and the wig fitted – and last but not least, it’s time to slip into costume.
The outfits Directors don were dreamed up by costume designer Janet Hines. With a brief to create outfits that equalled the hotel interiors without competing with them, Hine worked on creating hotel ‘characters’ rather than mere uniforms. It’s one of the vital elements that paints QT as a theatrical production rather than just a place of accommodation. The outfits vary slightly but consist of leather and sheer panelled leggings, black smock-like tops, a star-studded beret to top it off and a body harness with a metal keyhole to wrap it up. A minimalist asymmetric coat provides warmth for the cooler months.
Half an hour in the makeup chair transforms Granger from a Gemma Ward or Amanda Seyfried lookalike to a character more akin to a street performer. And, of course, that’s the point: to catch attention, whether for arriving guests or the general public. Despite QT’s high-voltage aesthetic, it has the strange feeling of being hidden away above street level.
Due to the hotel’s concealed location, the Directors have some other occupational quirks, particularly when people on the street ask to take photos or mistake the nature of the job: “Often people think I’m part of the State Theatre [next door], so they’ll stop and ask what’s going on there,” says Granger. “Another funny one is people in their cars will stare and think you can’t see them. You give them a little smile and they kind of freak out.
“But the best one actually is when I’m standing by myself and people walking past think I’m a statue,” says Granger with a grin. “All of a sudden I’ll move and they’ll jump and say, ‘Oh my God, you’re real?!’”