EFR - Reviews of Paradise

Paradise

Mon 5th – Sun 25th August 2013

reviews

Imogen O'Sullivan

at 20:54 on 17th Aug 2013

0agrees

0disagrees

The moment ‘Paradise’ begins I fear the worst. Clichés of GCSE Drama abound – characters are wearing sinister blank-faced masks, there’s a costume change rail at the back of the stage, and the opening tableau has a frozen woman checking her watch. The piece is also peppered with clumsy physical sequences intended to represent a crowded tube, but which instead come across as un-choreographed actors stumbling over each other in semi-darkness.

The premise is decent enough; we follow the stories of multiple strangers who every day pass each other on the tube, and the single-bench staging is effective, if not particularly original. Nadia Amico and Abby Robinson play a slick medley of contemporary songs, and their delicate but clear voices add a much-needed atmosphere to the piece. The problem with ‘Paradise’ lies in the characters.

Matt Miller plays Liam – the most central character in the play. Liam is arrogant, obnoxious, and aggressive; even during his later scenes with a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s, he proves himself impossible to like. This really hinders any potential for this piece to evoke a message, as I simply struggled to care about Liam’s fate. Lyle Fulton is clearly a very skilled character actor, but relied too heavily on the expected comedy of funny voices, which created an incongruous juxtaposition between the two-dimensional stereotypes reminiscent of sketch comedy and the serious tone of the subject matter. Again, Fulton suffers from his characters being fundamentally unlikeable, and his ability to embody them convincingly is tested by the painfully trite and clunky script – particularly in the scenes between the lovelorn Fulton and the object of his desires, played by Jessica Curtis, where a lot of lines were fluffed or repeated.

One of the most difficult challenges with devised and unscripted naturalistic dialogue is that it often comes across as stilted, repetitive, and boring, and this is a trap that the Nottingham New Theatre sadly fall into. The only convincing and sympathetic character portrayals come from Virginia Lee, who skilfully switches from Liam’s aging mother to a young middle-class woman, snobbishly concerned about the state of the world and perversely fascinated by gruesome news stories.

The fundamental problem I had with ‘Paradise’ was that I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the snippets of stories I was shown. In fact, I actively didn’t want to hear any more inane, self-involved conversation about their banal lives. A lot of the issues in this show could be put down to it being a devised piece from a young and inexperienced company – the actors were by no means untalented, and with a different concept and a different script they may well have fared better. However, this is certainly nowhere near the best student drama at the Fringe.

agree
disagree

Natasha Hyman

at 10:32 on 19th Aug 2013

0agrees

0disagrees

‘Paradise’ begins with a nonsensical opening monologue; within minutes the character has managed to label himself as a yobby northerner and to stereotype Londoners as masked, silent robots. This is a show which deals in the two-dimensional. As such, it would do better to stick with light comedy, rather than attempt to make any grand statement.

Essentially the show is a ‘Love Actually’ format - a selection of stories, to which we return in a series of snapshot scenes. However, unlike ‘Love Actually’, this show is only an hour long, and furthermore, there is no real character exploration. The result is a series of inconsequential and unmemorable scenes.

On the whole, the performances lack emotional depth. One character speaks to his demented mother with a complete lack of sympathy for her mental state, making him intensely unlikeable. As all (short-lived) exposure to the main character Liam (played by Matt Miller) was negative, I found him difficult to empathise with: this crucially weakens the plot, without giving any spoilers.

Another moment where this struck home was when one of Jessica Curtis’ characters is getting married, and her best friend (played by Lyle Fulton) declares his love for her in the middle of her wedding. I really enjoyed the effective use of lighting at the point where he stands up, the house and stage lights suddenly glaring white, making us wince, and creating a sense of the intense pressure of the moment. However, although this marked a climax, it fell flat - we just weren’t invested enough in the characters or the story.

There were some commendable performances. Most notably from Fulton as the camp, pretentious Gabriel. However the strength of characters ranged; Jenny Kohnhorst as a particularly stereotyped French woman, complete with phlegmy accent and beret, was a low point.

The most frustrating aspect of the piece was the use of music in between scenes. Nadia Amico and Abby Robinson stand amongst the audience members doing cheesy pop covers, and occasionally banging on their guitars to jolt us awake. I found this addition distracting and at times intrusive. I would have much preferred to see the musicians as part of the ensemble. I like the idea behind this show, but I think that it needs some significant re-structuring before it becomes an interesting piece.

agree
disagree

Audience Avg.

0 votes, 0 comments

Click here for more event information

cast involved

other events on

Version 0.3.7a