PARADISE by Nell Leyshon, Salt Factory on tour to 12th November 2009.
Running time 1 hour 5 minutes, no interval.
Review Mark Courtice. Salisbury Playhouse Studio, 11th November 2009
Grown up view of seaside life.
Nell Leyshon has chronicled fractures at the heart of contemporary rural life with plays like Comfort Me with Apples. Here she sets the scene at the seaside, a place not immune to the breakdown of society either – this is the seaside of DHSS and social housing.
Starting from its end, Sadie and Jake trace the story of their relationship, which was briefly a sort of paradise, before they lost it. We each define our own paradise; they start theirs with drugs, and in so doing sow the seeds of its destruction.
The story is cleverly constructed, so the backwards way round telling of it has tension and truth, involving us despite the fact we think we know how its going to end, because the emotional journey is moving forwards all the time.
The fine writing is often dense and poetic, but always direct and engaging. So the couple’s wooing shows the dangerous thinness of their relationship, despite their passion; her longing is for a life of substance, and he’s offering a fantasy.
Celia Meiras’ and Lee Hart‘s performances are brave and revealing – her need and vulnerability, his badly camouflaged weakness. The continual sacrifice of every good thing to dope is played clear-eyed – unsparing but compassionate. Passion and sadness are authentic and keenly felt, and the actors use effective movement with strength and speed, and sometimes shocking lifts and drops, to underscore emotional truth.
Becca Gill directs with full command of the theatrical palette; things look and sound right, while the action gets to the heart of the matter. Mike Britten’s set’s floor is nail-polish red – shiny, hard and reflecting light in shimmering illusions on a white back wall. Design and lighting combine to create a shifting, glittering, treacherous reality. Production standards are high so at the end of a short tour it still looks perfect.
An engaging score by Greta Hennessy and Will Plowman underpins the action, mixing the sounds of the seaside with minimalist/techno music.
With committed performances and a compelling script delivered by a clever production this is a moving, grown-up and truthful show.
Writer Nell Leyshon
Director Becca Gill
Set Design Mike Britton
Sound Design Greta Hennessy & Will Plowman
Lighting Design Jay Kerry