Paradise Lost @ The Place Review

A text cited as one of the literary greats, John Milton‘s Paradise Lost provides a magnificent playground for a theatre maker to interpret and illuminate onto the stage. An epic poem initially published in 1667, the work consists of 10 books, each presented in blank verse. The much adapted narrative zones in on one of the greatest stories ever told, the creation of the first man and woman on Earth, Adam and Eve, and their fall from the highly aspirational and idyllic Garden of Eden.

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A story that has grasped the world for millennia, how in 2015 can this well known epic present itself with fresh ideas? Well in the case of the theatre company, Lost Dog, Milton’s classical text takes on the form of a 90 minute monologue delivered by Artistic Director and performer, Ben Duke. It’s clear just how revered Duke is, as the auditorium is alive with chatter and activity. Duke opens the show as he means to go on, dry wit a staple of his comedic style. The production is unapologetic about its non expenses spared approach both aesthetically and theatrically. Duke welcomes authenticity into an otherwise extravagant narrative, this brings the audience on side, making an intimidating text a lot more palatable.
Duke take on a series of roles, from God, to Lucifer, and of course Adam and Eve. All characters are depicted as down to Earth beings, however the production tangles itself into a web of becoming somewhat complex, due to Duke’s multi-roleing. How best can a rich text such as Paradise Lost be condensed, yet awe-inspiring simultaneously? Lost Dog productions answers this in part by incorporating visual snapshots that inspire. Duke’s depiction of the great battle between Lucifer and God marries music, action and stage aesthetic wonderfully. Duke cites a segment of Milton’s text as Jackie Shemesh‘s red tinted lighting design depicts the bloodshed of thousands of victims, whilst paper cut outs of people drizzle from the ceiling. Duke’s introduction of Adam works brilliantly due to the audience’s awareness of the creation story, plus the comedic addition of a smoke machine, which Duke, dressed in a skin coloured body suit with only a leaf to cover his modesty. These segments contribute a layer of dramatic nuance that I only wish there is more of.

Paradise Lost is playful, however can not truly encompass the sheer volume of the 10 part story. Snippets of the poem are utilised throughout the evening, with Duke hilariously reading the ending, joking that we may not even reach the show’s conclusion. As someone only used to the story’s title being thrown around, and finally being introduced to the text, the adaptation is audience friendly in tone, however the iconic factor that is character is only ever slightly carved through dance and jerky movement sequences. I’d like to leave with 4 different characters each with their individual qualities. 3/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Paradise Lost was shown at The Place Theatre on Friday 9th October. For more information on Lost Dog, visit here…

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