This review first appeared on the Ed Fringe Review website on 22 August 2015.
For a reviewer, there are few things more irritating than a play that thinks it’s cleverer than it actually is. Vapid, smarmy and really rather dull, occasional flashes of competence are not enough to save Paradise: Lost from being a boring, overlong slog of a show, the central philosophy of which is so blisteringly juvenile that it would qualify as a comedy if it wasn’t so tedious. The not-wordplay of the title is only the beginning of the show’s many frustrations.
The premise is actually pretty solid; Adam and Evelyn are a pair of inmates in a hotel room prison after the apocalypse, intimidated by two ‘angels’ who are trying to pressurise them into repopulating the earth, complicated by the arrival of the play’s Satan analogue, who’s having an affair with Evelyn. Unfortunately, this premise largely ends up as an excuse to re-tell the story of Eden with a more affordable set, and without any nudity to liven things up.
I get the feeling that this play is someone’s idea of a very clever satire of Christianity. Or society. Or something. To be honest, the theology gets lost as soon as the characters open their mouths, as trite and clichéd characters spout dry and boring dialogue. The shoehorned-in quotes from Milton are utterly cringeworthy, clashing with the barebones style of everything else, and only serving to highlight how poorly written the rest of the lines are. This is the kind of satire that just can’t be arsed to do the research necessary to skewer its targets properly, so instead attacks a ludicrous strawman version and ends up looking the bigger fool.
The acting is not incompetent, but it doesn’t exactly sparkle either. Danny Hetherington is good as Adam, even managing to wring a few laughs out of his godawful dialogue. Bethany Kapila is at least passable as Evelyn, while Nia Tilley and Touwa Craig-Dunn don’t really do much to stand out. The worst offender is Jack Alexander as our Satan analogue, who comes across less as a charismatic and seductive charmer than a whiny second-hand car salesman.
At fifty minutes this is short for the Fringe, but still way too long by any human standard, as scenes drag on and on and on, taking twenty minutes to do things that could be achieved in two. Languidly paced, forgettably acted and insultingly scripted, Paradise: Lost is one of the most insufferable shows I have ever had the misfortune to sit through.