REVIEW: Paradise Lost

Our Lord God – John Milton (played by James Malcher) – welcomes us to the beginning. He creates light and wonders if he should just leave it at that. And given John Collopy’s beautiful lighting design, that might be enough?

But no, God – high above the stage – continues under the watchful eye of his scribe (Anna Louey), who is sitting in the audience taking notes and offering helpful suggestions to round out the world and the characters.

The setting? The most beautiful garden there ever was or ever will be. Nathan Burmeister gives us Eden via leafy fabric laid across the stage and hung in the back to create a proscenium, framing Our Lord God John Milton strutting and ranting through the act of creation.

Enter Archangel Michael (Emily O’Connor) to the story. They are here to pitch a new invention – it toils, procreates and prays. Man is a three-in-one device. He will work in the garden. He will spread the word of God.

Edan Goodall’s Adam appears in a pale-pink tracksuit, ready to do God’s bidding. But the problem, in the beginning, is that he’s got no one to procreate with and Archangel Lucifer is concerned about the state of the universe. His vision? Expansion!

The Bloomshed’s take on John Milton’s epic poem about The Fall of Man (based on, you know, The Bible) is rapid-fire satire: a take-down of institutions, consumerism and capitalism. But it also explores how stories are devised and propagated and whether or not Genesis might have too many men in it.

And thus, the talking rib, Eve (Elizabeth Brennan) arrives to, well, you know, enjoy the garden and endure that other well-known act of creation – pro-creation. The moment where Michael explains to Adam and Eve how to fuck is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Followed quickly by Lucifer being sent to hell in an elevator that plays a muzak version of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire. Burn, Burn, Burn.

James Jackson, founder of The Bloomshed, has developed this piece together with the entire ensemble and has cast himself as Lucifer – the agitator that really moves this story along, no matter what Lord God John Milton thinks.

God might have taken seven days and probably a few drafts to make everything we see before us, but the Bloomshed tell the whole story in a tight one-hour show that is all high-points. The satire is pointed, the comedy is hilarious and the entire team spin around the stage like clockwork. The audience is in the hands of expert theatre makers, telling us a tale as old as time while confronting the realities of post-paradise head on.

Paradise Lost closed yesterday, but here's hoping we can spread the word and the show rises again all over the place.

- Keith Gow, Theatre First

Photos by Sarah Walker