Paradise is not something that can be achieved in a lifetime. The man and the woman in front of us, meticulously constructing a table, are fully aware of this. It is their job, or perhaps a hobby, or something even more urgent, to discover what it is that makes a perfect world. Jeremy Killick and Stacey Sampson have a calmness and a precision in the presentation of their characters that makes Third Angel and mala voadora’s The Paradise Project something beautiful.
As the play begins, the performers, costumed as the world’s most hipster social scientists in black, white and orange, construct their world from scratch. They start with a table on the white tiled floor, before lining up the walls, building chairs and steps. This is a production which literally constructs the rules from the ground up. There’s nothing more than what is required in this space, framed by the warehouse in which it is based. The stage is clinical and cold, at odds with the ideas held within it. Perhaps that’s a critique of the characters’ methodologies – The Paradise Project keeps its intentions firmly under wraps.
Conceptually, The Paradise Project is brilliant. In practice, however, it doesn’t reward its audience for their patience. In leaving everything a mystery and distancing itself from the viewer, the show feels slightly disengaged with the world around it. The performers passionately debate the politics of water allocations in their new home but blank-facedly read case studies of brutal violence into a recorder. On the other hand, it is visually superb. Lighting and sound effects are used to great effect – the whirr of a tape recorder, the harsh glow on the white tiles.
Mysterious and at times detached, The Paradise Project is a piece that keeps the spectator at arms length, encouraging them to tease out an explanation amidst the curiosity.
The Paradise Project is playing at Northern Stage at Summerhall (Venue 26b) until 30 August (no performances on 19 or 26) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.