‘Paradise’ is a remarkable piece of both physical and ensemble theatre. Taking place over the course of a day on the London Underground, the setting is a stark reminder of the many different people and events that simply pass us by during our everyday lives. The cast perform an admirable arrangement of different characters, from a loud mouth drummer from Leeds to a brilliantly familiar French tourist unable to find her way around London.
Entering to a thrust stage, two excellent guitarists (Abby Robinson and Nadia Amico) play music and also act as omniscient narrators; their music like some indie prophesy of what will unfold but sometimes providing a welcome contrast to the events on stage. The play uses an ingenious fold up seat (which I am told was specially ordered for the play).
Characterization across the cast is admirable; Matthew Miller’s portrayal of the ‘in yer face’ musician Liam, whose love of Leeds is thrown into everyone’s face, is genius. Having grown up in a house full of people from the same city, it was remarkable to see the way in which he had encompassed minute details and idiosyncrasies that would only be known to those with a personal connection to such people, highlighting the way in which Barnes’ direction elevates simple caricatures and transforms them into fully believable beings. Another notable creative turn by Barnes is the way in which his piece never stands still for a moment. Many devised pieces such as this would rely on simply creating big impressive characters but Barnes’ has the bravery to further explore the creations of the story, in the case of Liam moving from the comic expressionistic character to a more heartfelt and quietly shattering relationship with his Mother (Ginny Lee) who is slowly losing her mind. By contrast I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship of two wannabe band members trying to find their way in the big wide world through a series of new gigs. Lyle Fulton’s repetitive use of the word ‘babe’ was delivered to expert comic effect.
A unique feature of the play comes from the full use of the acting ensemble. As each scene focuses on individual stories it would have been easy for the characters to simply perform monologues out to the seated audience. Instead, the remaining actors wear gaunt masks, an eerie yet startlingly remarkable effect that hearkens back to ancient Greek theatre and provides an unsettling edge to every scene, enacting silent ominous passengers.
Having seen the first incarnation of this play in February, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing its progression into a very different piece of theatre. The story seems more comfortable with itself. Very occasionally accents slipped, something which I know will be become better after several performances, and I felt that at times characters could have been a little more realistic – for instances when acting drunk. Perhaps the only thing missing from this version of the show was the wonderful set piece of the fold up seat being used as both a ticket barrier and underground gates with greater effect.
Overall I believe that ‘Paradise’ is a new and very exciting piece theatre, which I believe will continue to grow and go from strength to strength. Key to the success of the show will be its progression over the next few weeks, but if they carry on in the way they are going, confidence will be gained from many audiences across the Edinburgh Fringe.
Paradise will be running at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (odd days) from 3rd – 25th August. For more information visit https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/paradise