Review: Long Nights in Paradise

Tom Chandler 10 February 2022
Image Credit: ADC Theatre, Ross Kelly

CN: Mentions of suicide, miscarriage and death of a child.

I felt like ‘Long Nights in Paradise’ was potentially going to be a marmite play – I think you really have to watch it to find out if you’re going to like it or not. Personally, I loved it.

The first thing that was immediately obvious was just how effectively the show transformed the Main show’s set; if I hadn’t known, I would have guessed the set was purposely made for the piece. By draping blacks over the back half of the set and hanging white clothes from the front, they transformed the space and really took control of it. The play began with the most effective use of projection I have so far seen in the ADC – showing scenes of intimacy across the stage, and allowing us to feel closer to the actors than we could ever possibly do on the ADC Stage.

The writing was incredibly colourful, filled with light and dark moments and transitioning seamlessly between them, executed with perfect precision on stage by the ensemble and by lighting changes. Although the play was non-chronological and at times the lines between reality and fiction are incredibly blurred, you are never left in the dark as to what the scene is or when it has changed. Jack Medlin as the leading role of Scott, a 40 year old man whose life falls apart and ends up homeless, gave an awe-inspiring performance, which stands as a real feat of endurance as the character is yanked back and forth along the timeline. Opposite him, Fuschia Webb, who gave a sensitive, believable performance as Scott’s beloved wife. The tenderness between the two, the way of talking and the little jokes they have were masterful – I was entranced by both of them.

Each of the ensemble was given a chance to shine, but I must say Will Leckie in particular stood out as an acting titan; able to transform from one character to another so effortlessly. His role as the father of Adara, played by Dominika Wiatrowska, was frankly monstrous yet sympathetic. Wiatrowska herself was a wonder to watch, as Adara befriends and looks after Scott whilst he is homeless. The two have wonderful chemistry as friends; you never once get the feeling there is anything more than that. The dance sequence from Wiatrowska and Medlin stands out to me as perfectly sublime, utilising the whole auditorium and sending chills down my spine. It makes Scott’s later betrayal of Adara all the more brutal to see, although Scott puts forward convincing reasons for why he did it.

The tree constructed for this piece, on stage for most of the show, was abstract and industrial but possesses a sinister beauty about it. Made of pipes and chains, at times it looms over the characters, at others it provides shelter. There were fairy lights entwined in the chains, and I just wish they were used for more than one scene. Similarly, the projector, although used effectively, I just wish it was used slightly more.

I have never seen a show bounce back from gut-wrenching tragedies, such as the death of a newborn child and the suicide of Liz, so masterfully. These moments were the first on the ADC stage which have brought me to tears. My singular critique is the length of the piece – coming in at over 90 minutes it is easily the longest late show I have ever seen at the ADC. I can’t put my finger on whether the length was actually an issue or if it was simply suffering from having to run well past midnight and I was getting tired. There were several points where the story naturally lulled into a false-ending, and I did feel some of the later scenes were less tight. At the same time there was beauty and power in other late scenes, particularly the final one.

The abstract, non-linear aspect of this play is not for everyone but I have to say this has been the most challenging and inspiring play I have so far seen in Cambridge. I feel it was well deserving of an earlier slot and that would have likely helped with the issue of length. Nonetheless, I loved it, and would encourage everyone to go see this masterpiece.

4.5 /5 Stars.