Edinburgh Fringe 2013
This is a devised piece from this very impressive student run company that takes us from seeing Liam annoying people on the tube, the break up of a band – because Felix won’t sell out, a trip to the Zoo that doesn’t go swimmingly and a hen night with one man and his crush which all lead us to the unfortunate end of someone clearly looking for acceptance and support whilst he is looking after a sick parent. All of this neatly intertwined with excellent musical accompaniment from two singers with guitars singing songs of their generation.
We start with Liam at the bus stop. Liam is the type of person we all try and avoid. He is keen, from Yorkshire, in London and wanting to make friends. His interaction with Tasty, Pin Stripe, Rude and French ends with a date with the one person whose communication barrier ought to be the worst but is ironically where he finds favour. Rosie and Dave then take Daisy to the zoo to see if they can parent properly before they have their own sprog; inevitably it is far from plain sailing. Gabrielle and Felix then break up the band or at least Felix does as he thinks selling out to Channel 4 is mainstream. These four narratives intermingle and find an anchor in the demise of that guy at the bus stop – but not until we meet his mum.
This was very well observed and I really liked it. The opening and ending in particular impressed me as they were both very well observed and brought these disparate stories full circle in a highly effective manner. It was well worth watching. All were highly believable and the storylines well mapped out.
All performances were of a quality that brought comic caricature elements to the story but were also observed in such a way that we were absorbed in the telling. I enjoyed each of them in turn and found myself willing Gabrielle to tell Felix to shove it, Karen to just fall for Paul, Rosie to join Dave in therapy and Liam to just survive. This is a company who have brought sharply observed characters to the Fringe and allowed them to breathe and delight us onstage in a hugely impressive manner.
I was very taken by the concertina chair. It has to be seen to be understood but as the only real set it worked magnificently well. The use of mask was effective and the number of times I was thrilled to see simple characterisation take us into the next scene was consistent. The use of the two – very good – musicians helped not just with set changes but also with the themes of the play. Music is chosen specifically to fit the piece and then sung expressively in such a manner that it is part of the commentary.
Devised theatre is something I love watching. This was one of the better examples of it because this company have an understanding of their craft. It is not the best example I have seen but sits comfortably within its genre. In fact this was a great hour spent in their company. The only place I felt a little let down was what happened to Liam. I think a far more creative conclusion to his story would have been more impressive though the ending to the piece recovered it a little.
I loved Paradise as it asked questions to which no one had the answers which brought great insight into the lives of the characters involved. What it actually says about life is between the pen of the deviser and their audience. This gives me hope that this company take their craft very seriously. I have seen many devised shows and as an example to how it ought to be done it would be a pretty impressive start.