Venue: Drama Barn
Runs: 26-28 October 2012
Directed by: Christian Smith
Produced by: Anna Thirkettle
Paradise, a simple half hour long self-indulgent soliloquy, takes the audience on a voyeuristic journey into the mind of sole character Ricky (played by Howard Thompson). The beginning of the play sees Ricky sat in a state of composed yet blatant despair, whilst at the same time reacting to audience movement, hinting at our involvement in his dialogue from the outset. It would have been easy for Thompson to slip deeply into the confused and frustrated thoughts of the character without maintaining the link between himself and the ‘voyeurs’ of the barn; yet this was not the case: his dark looks and cutting remarks to members of the audience throughout allowed us a constant reassurance of our place in this man’s breakdown.
The black, bare set, furnished only with a chair in the middle of the room creates an essence of confusion and unpredictability as to the nature of the play. Yet the questions of perspective are answered halfway through when we learn Ricky has been sat in his ‘bleak’ university room at 1am throughout. This simple set design was a parallel reflection of exactly what the play was trying to create, the dark mind of a crumbling man stuck in a rut.
The tangible dialogue takes us on a journey through Ricky’s emotions; a juxtaposition of controversial humour and raw pain. The humour is based on the standard jokes about the North that have been so overdone by our current culture of comedy, peppered with a few controversial racist comments that evoked nervous, pitying laughter from the audience, as well as deeply unhappy interjections that unmask what the humour attempted to hide. This emotion reached a crescendo at the end with the proclamation that he is ‘in love with pain, as pain is what keeps the memories alive’, hinting at anguish caused by a woman in his life yet this is never confirmed.
This moment was where you wish the play was longer, as the curiosity evoked by these hints and whispers of love gone wrong is never satisfied and left entirely to imagination. The timeframe does hinder this play slightly, as when the voyeur begins to understand and delve deeper into Thompson’s performance the lights go up and that is that. Yet this sense of questioning we are left with afterwards is exactly where the success of a strong theatrical presence is rooted.