Why did God create the world? In Lost Dog’s interpretation, Paradise Lost (lies unopened before me), he did so because he was terrified of doing nothing.
The work of Ben Duke, director and co-founder of Lost Dog, this is a one-man show performed by Duke himself, combining theatre, comedy and music to tell the story of the Creation, as extrapolated by Duke from Milton's 17th-century epic poem, Paradise Lost.
Who among us doesn’t like to be told a good story, especially when narrated and enacted by a consummate storyteller such as Ben Duke? He walks onto a bare stage carrying a chair, a trim man in a nondescript suit with a small smile on his handsome face, and starts chatting to his audience.
For all its conversational tone and self-deprecating jokes (he wonders, for example, whether he’ll be able to perform the same moves he did when Paradise Lost premiered in 2015 – spoiler: he can!), this is, in fact, an extremely well-crafted and intelligent way of winning over the audience. After two or three minutes, he has us eating out of his hand.
After a brief reading from the end of Milton’s poem, which tells of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise, the book will lie unopened for the rest of the show, which will be given to Duke’s ‘slight paraphrase’ of the events it narrates.
Duke’s take on the story is full of inventive, often zany and unexpected twists, the sort that catches you by surprise every single time. God is not the infallible being, full of certainty and power we’ve come to expect, but rather a slightly bumbling character, who loses control over all his creations. Lucifer is the odd one out among the hosts of angels: 'rude, blasphemous' and, unlike the other angels, 'completely unmusical.'
And so it goes - no spoilers here: part of the value of Paradise Lost lies in its ability to surprise. In keeping with Lost Dog’s style, this work is impossible to pigeonhole: it combines theatre, movement, comedy and music, veering from laughter to deep poignancy, from statement to interrogation, and all that with minimum props.
Throughout the show’s highly physical 70-minute duration, Duke will play the roles of God, Lucifer, Adam, Eve, the snake, and the actor himself, and intersperse his wild narrative with snippets from his own life.
This is, in short, a truly original, engaging and deeply human work; in our view, well deserving of its inclusion in The Guardian’s Top Ten Dance Performances of the 21st century.
|What||Lost Dog, Paradise Lost review|
|Where||The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Euston (underground)|
05 Jun 21 – 06 Jun 21, Sat at 19:30. Sun livestreams at 15:00 & 21:00 Dur.: 1 hour 15 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book|