ARTYFACTS: Day 5 - Paradise Lost – Satan fluffs lines

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Day 5 - Paradise Lost – Satan fluffs lines

You’ve got to love a ticket that says ‘Due to the nature of the material, Paradise lost contains scenes of nudity & is not suitable for younger children’. By ‘material’ did they mean that Sin HAD to have her left breast hanging provocatively out of her dress? Did Milton foresee a production with a completely naked Adam and Eve? If alive today the old Puritan would have picketed the theatre. Of course, we could have sneaked him in and not told him they were naked! (You have to know your Milton to get this.)

An evening of dramatised 17th century poetry may not be to everyone’s liking, but this is one of the finest pieces of literature in the English language. Milton doesn’t do small. Paradise Lost is hugely ambitious; the story of the Fall, and a theatrical production must take this huge theme and get it into the heart of the individual watching from the stalls. This is no easy task.

I liked the opening set, all bluish-grey with the narrator in grey hoodie and washed out jeans. The only colour a single, shiny red apple. Then a blonde, white-suited Satan with his cohorts and an array of accents along with a clever technique - interviewing them as a sort of panel of pundits using a hand-held microphone. Satan is no caricature for Milton. He’s full of doubt, confusion and reflection but in the end deadly. The reader is lulled into feeling sorry for his predicament, which, of course, is our predicament – the whole point of the poem and this production. It was a shame that he forgot his lines (twice). Not like Satan to fluff his lines.

Clever stagecraft also concealed the surprising birth of Death, from his mother Sin but Death’s southern US accent was puzzling. Was it a comment on the current dominance of Southern Fundamentalism – the new Axis of Evil?

Angels flew, Satan roared, a shocking rape of mother by son, and the Gates of hell were open. Not a typical Wednesday night’s entertainment – but damn frightening. Down to the bar for a Beck’s at the interval and told that I must drink it from a plastic glass. Do they really expect ‘bottle in your face’ hooligans at Paradise lost? I’d just seen ‘Death’ rape his mother ‘Sin’ from behind – I needed a quick drink. Theatres ought to loosen up a little.

Adam and Eve appear in all their glory. Milton allowed them to have sex in Eden before the Fall, something that shocked Puritan England and it still seems a little odd. Satan, now in a black suit, tempts Eve, by changing into a snakeskin jacket, like some over-aged nightclub owner, to eat the apple. Why an apple I wondered? The fruit gets a raw deal in Genesis. It looks so innocent. Anyway, we know the story and as Adam and Eve are forced in their shame to don suits, a tie and office clothes, we are forced to reflect on the complexity of sin in our world. This worked well enough, although it lacked emotional punch.

The narrator turns out to be – well read your Milton to find out – it’s the twist at the end.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn’t make the Milton but I did make…

Philharmonia Orchestra – Brighton Dome Concert Hall - Wednesday 11 May 2006

Wow! What a concert. Packed in to the rafters – not a seat to be had – expectations running high. Lights down… bang. Shostakovich Festive Overture – 7 minutes of full frontal blast, our ears pinned to the back wall. Were awake ….wanting more. Steven Osborne, Edinburgh’s finest, strolls up to the piano…. bang. Shostakovich Piano Concerto no.2 – 22 minutes of heaven, all in his head not a score to be seen, orchestra and soloist in perfect harmony… brilliant.
Interval – everyone’s buzzing.. did you hear that….amazing.
Second half – who put this programme together, never heard so much Shostakovich at one sitting. Steven Isserlis…. looking like Simon Rattle with his long curly locks starting to grey… attacks the Cello Concerto no.1 with such gusto it looks like he might fall off the podium.
Then for the Symphony – no.9 – could be an anticlimax after the two blistering concertos. Steven Osborne doesn’t think so …spotted out-front rather than sloping off home, job done, squashed into a seat in front of a follow spot mesmerised like the rest of us. Ashkenazy brings it on home like a mighty midget both feet off the platform as he coaxes the Philharmonia to an extraordinary climax. The crowd go wild and Vladimir encourages them stamping along with the rest of us. The demure Japanese student next to me is on her feet – what a night. Off into the night through the gardens, the taxi rank is buzzing …. ‘did you hear that’… four mature ladies clamber into a cab ahead of four clubbing girls – you haven’t lived till you’ve heard Shostakovich girls. And over the Pavilion a beautiful ball of cheese to round of a great evening and to my surprise – its true …. there is a Rabbit in the Moon….

4:53 pm  

Post a comment

<< Home