Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Easter weekend 1998. With the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement all over the news, a message from Kate Regan’s troubled past disrupts her own uneasy peace
On the Easter weekend of 1998 as the Good Friday Agreement emerges from the peace process, Kate is negotiating a parallel peace process with the ghosts of her own past. The actor, Amy Molloy gives an understated performance that is perfectly suited to Michael John O’Neill’s lyrically powerful play, This is Paradise.
Kate Regan is breaking, she tells us. Her life doesn’t feel her own – up till now, it’s been played out in relation to the men in her life. Her first tentative love, the school goalie, Big Joe, dies in uncertain circumstances on a school trip to Paris. Shortly after, Kate, a confused and vulnerable sixteen year old schoolgirl, meets the much older Diver; charismatic and dangerously attractive, the archetypical mad, bad and dangerous to know character. “I don’t know how you are anymore, I don’t know what you’ve become’, her father tells her, when she gives up school and moves in with Diver. And nor, it seems, does Kate.
As the play opens, Kate is with her safely dependable husband, Brendy, when she gets a message from Diver’s latest child bride – Diver is missing. An odyssey into her past begins with Kate picking over her past life to lay waste to her ghosts and emerge fully formed into her present.
Michael John O’Neill’s play is a fully formed thing, shape shifting and lyrically evocative. Kate repeatedly tells us she is broken and the script itself is fractured, broken into shards of meaning revealing its full import throughout the play. There are repeated lines and metaphor that build layer upon layer and deepen as the context changes. “We are such simple things” Kate repeats wistfully throughout the play. Images of the river flowing, of the border, of breaking flood over us, mesmeric and haunting.
Katherine Nesbitt’s direction keeps the play taut and ensures the central monologue is supported by an unobstructive framework. Amy Molloy’s performance is pitch perfect, restrained where it needs to be and opening up as the play goes on. For much of the play, the acting feels centred in her head with her body, as she tells us, broken and static, and as she heals and becomes whole her body is engaged. It’s a stunning performance..
Lulu Tam’s set is minimal – shiny, black floor with a raised white box in its centre. Fittingly, all the action takes place on this small island’s constrained space. It’s white and fractured by breaks, blood red fissures that evoke blood and the border. There’s a black brick wall behind with projections of sea and cloud occasionally flitting by. Mists of dry ice shroud Kate from time to time as memory and reconciliation with the past struggles to emerge.
O’Neill’s script sustains a powerful metaphor where women’s subjection and their complicated relationship with their oppressors acts as a parallel to Northern Ireland and its fraught history. As the play ends, new life for Kate offers reconciliation with her past and a chance of a better future, echoing the political background that looms large over this play.