Paradise

A cold, dark underpass; neutralizing half-masks; tenacious ambiguity: ostensibly, Paradise seems less like an avant-garde theatrical production, more a physical threat.


A cold, dark underpass; neutralizing half-masks; tenacious ambiguity: ostensibly, Paradise seems less like an avant-garde theatrical production, more a physical threat.

Fortunately then, it is a raucous piece of cautious social commentary come unsullied entertainment, deserving of a far bigger audience its effectively unsettling staging commands.

Paradise posits the story of four couples – a rocky marriage, a band, a hen party and two strangers – who interact throughout one fateful night in the London Underground.

In praising Paradise the sheer, unrestrained effort of the production demands reflection. Attention to detail is outstanding to the point of obsessive; producer Carboneri’s Houdini act permeated as far the befuddled bus-driver.

Meanwhile, Barnes exhaustive direction crafts an effortless and coherent narrative stream, the four actors and their nine personas ceaselessly fashioning one united remarkable whole.

While certain characters stray perilously close to stereotype – the friendly northerner, the hipster musician – the peerless, hard working cast ensure enough theatrical formality to decorate the dialogic joviality.

The distinctiveness of each, the sheer essence of individuality, is testament to nuanced and impassioned writing; laughter, while originally echoing through the barren underpass, quickly grew to a volumous warming consistency.

Particularly with the monologues however, certain gags would not have felt anachronistic to a poor-man’s stand-up routine and sully the experience somewhat.

Though inherently cramped, Paradise makes proficient use of space, lighting and props, its verisimilitude epitomised by a remarkable extendable prop. Yet it may be better described as a sonic-chair.

It plays like the world’s most dysfunctional couch, a social heterocosm à la Royle Family.

Whether Paradise means anything in a greater thematic or philosophical context is very much ‘individual’ dependent. It certainly alludes to particular pertinent issues – immigration for example – but gently so, a tentative touch that risks dicing with cowardice but instead connotes a controlled inviting restraint.

There was a prevailing expectation with Paradise. ‘It was one of those that could have gone either way,’ said one enamoured attendee, ‘really good or really bad, y’know.’

Thankfully, it is resolutely the former.