Edinburgh Festival Fringe dance review: Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me), reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter.
Standing alone on stage, dressed in a suit and clutching a copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Ben Duke has an air of quiet solemnity about him. An image of which he very quickly disabuses us with some witty quips, spoken directly to the audience.
Milton’s 17th-century work may be the bedrock of this show by dance theatre company Lost Dog, but it’s as far away from a literal interpretation as can be.
The central aspects of this epic poem remain – God’s creation of Earth, his tussle with Lucifer, and disappointment at Adam and Eve’s inability to keep their hands off each other. But they’re all presented in a way that not only makes this heavy verse (only four lines of which are actually spoken) accessible, but relevant to 21st-century life.
This is partly down to Duke’s highly physical style, charming delivery and clever choice of words. But it’s also the structure, which finds him switching between building the universe and trying to entice his young child to put down a treasured stick and get ready for school.
One character, God, is attempting to start life as we know it. The other, husband and dad, simply wants to get things done without losing his rag.
We see the parallels, empathise with the frustration – and thus, build a bridge between the character of God and us. Whether those with strong spiritual beliefs would see it that way is another matter.
Backed by a panoply of beautiful musical choices, from Bach to Nick Cave, Duke uses his body to remarkable effect.
Whether he’s constructing the planet, falling from heaven as Lucifer, or enduring a shower of boulders, the quirky, angular moves are fascinating.
Among this physical display and witty repartee is a surprising poignancy that stays with you long after the stage goes dark.
Summerhall (venue 26) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 14 August 2015
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