Paradise: Lost

Mon 17th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

William Shaw

at 23:21 on 21st Aug 2015

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For a reviewer, there are few things more irritating than a play that thinks it's cleverer than it actually is. Vapid, smarmy and really rather dull, occasional flashes of competence are not enough to save Paradise: Lost from being a boring, overlong slog of a show, the central philosophy of which is so blisteringly juvenile that it would qualify as a comedy if it wasn't so tedious. The not-wordplay of the title is only the beginning of the show's many frustrations.

The premise is actually pretty solid; Adam and Evelyn are a pair of inmates in a hotel room prison after the apocalypse, intimidated by two 'angels' who are trying to pressurise them into repopulating the earth, complicated by the arrival of the play's Satan analogue, who's having an affair with Evelyn. Unfortunately, this premise largely ends up as an excuse to re-tell the story of Eden with a more affordable set, and without any nudity to liven things up.

I get the feeling that this play is someone's idea of a very clever satire of Christianity. Or society. Or something. To be honest, the theology gets lost as soon as the characters open their mouths, as trite and clichéd characters spout dry and boring dialogue. The shoehorned-in quotes from Milton are utterly cringeworthy, clashing with the barebones style of everything else, and only serving to highlight how poorly written the rest of the lines are. This is the kind of satire that just can't be arsed to do the research necessary to skewer its targets properly, so instead attacks a ludicrous strawman version and ends up looking the bigger fool.

The acting is not incompetent, but it doesn't exactly sparkle either. Danny Hetherington is good as Adam, even managing to wring a few laughs out of his godawful dialogue. Bethany Kapila is at least passable as Evelyn, while Nia Tilley and Touwa Craig-Dunn don't really do much to stand out. The worst offender is Jack Alexander as our Satan analogue, who comes across less as a charismatic and seductive charmer than a whiny second-hand car salesman.

At fifty minutes this is short for the Fringe, but still way too long by any human standard, as scenes drag on and on and on, taking twenty minutes to do things that could be achieved in two. Languidly paced, forgettably acted and insultingly scripted, Paradise: Lost is one of the most insufferable shows I have ever had the misfortune to sit through.

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Catherine Crook

at 09:33 on 22nd Aug 2015

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In a dystopian world where Adam and Eve (or in this production, Evelyn) are shown to us solely to be made a spectacle of by ‘Him’, 3Bugs’ Paradise: Lost shows a darker purpose behind the creation myth. Set in Adam and Evelyn’s bedroom, Evelyn becomes the central focus of the play, torn between being faithful to childlike Adam, or eloping to a world of knowledge with Malus, in what seems to be a domestic drama with deities involved. With an interesting premise, the play got off to a strong start – however, adding dimensions of metatheatricality towards the final scenes of the play made the overall effect fall flat.

The setting of Paradise: Lost was one I thought worked well; the sparsely decorated bedroom with the bed as the focus of the stage always provided a subtle reminder of the demands upon Evelyn to procreate. Costume was used to effect too, with the veils Archangel Uriel and Evelyn wore providing a sinister, matronly, Handmaid’s Tale-esque feel to the production, neatly oppressive. The use of the telephone incessantly ringing throughout the play also was a clever device, used to show the constant attempts of temptation trying to enter the house.

Performance-wise, Danny Hetherington as Adam was delightfully clueless, avoiding knowledge at all costs and innocently ignorant towards any sexual advances; when Evelyn tries to seduce him by putting on lipstick, his sole comment is “it’s very red, isn’t it!” Bethany Kapila is also a convincingly frenetic Evelyn, indecisive yet powerful, and Nia Tilley is impressive as the pious Uriel, the good cop to Gabriel’s bad cop, a pair of suitably evil henchmen for a shadowy and sinister Him.

However, for me, the production lost its sparkle when the shadows surrounding His authority were lifted; suddenly it is revealed that Adam and Evelyn are being made an example of by the Party of this nameless dystopic State, and that as his subjects, we are to learn from their mistakes. While this kind of metatheatrical unveiling had the potential to work well, by this point, I found it tiresome, and the once rebellious Malus lamenting the uselessness of it all felt more like petulant whining than tragic inevitability. The dialogue let the show down as well, most of the lines stilted and contrasting badly with the occasional Milton quote thrown in every now and again for relevance.

Overall then, I really did enjoy the concept of Paradise: Lost; but its eagerness to show the scope of its regime felt to me slightly contrived, when its strengths were in the minute details of the bedroom, in the set and between the characters. Paradise: Lost, then, was an ambitious project with sharp performances and an interesting concept, and 3Bugs should be commended for their creativity, even if that creativity was slightly overreaching.

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