Edinburgh Fringe Preview Part II: Notes from the underground in Paradise

paradiseNottingham New Theatre‘s production Paradise premiered in February but I unfortunately I was away on holiday.

The piece of site-specific theatre, directed by Tom Barnes and produced by Gabby Carboneri, was performed in a disused tunnel on the outskirts of the city which would no doubt have been the perfect setting for this bleak tale of modern-day alienation. Although it returned to the relatively safe confines of the theatre for its pre-Edinburgh peview last week, it still had a tremendous energy and poignancy.

Set on the underground in London, the centre piece is a concertina-like chair which is expanded and contracted to make room for the revolving cast of characters. The only other prop is a piece of black and yellow tape which denotes the platform edge somewhat ominously.

On the busy train we meet a young Yorkshire man called Liam (played by Matthew Miller) who, breaking the etiquette of the tube, tries to strike up a conversation with his fellow passengers. But they are all wearing flesh-coloured, dummy-like masks and are unsurprisingly unresponsive; they are reduced to mere types, for example, he refers the banker on his way to work as ‘pin stripe’.

Over the course of the play, which is sound tracked by two female vocalists/guitarists playing buskers, we are given glimpses into the lives of the characters. There is the unconventional hen party, the arguing couple, the band mates, the French tourist. Their lives are interrupted by a tragic event which stops them in their tracks momentarily. But perhaps what is shocking about it is not the event itself – horrifying though it is – but the way in which the characters brush it off with little empathy.

Paradise was created through improvised rehearsals and this gave it a wonderful immediacy. The dialogue was sharp and rhythmical, veering from frenzied outbursts to quiet reflections. It is a play that captures the pathos and disconnection but also humour of modern life.

You can see The Project at Zoo Monkey House at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

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