"One For Theatre Hybrid Fans"
by Malcolm Eadie for remotegoat on 22/07/16

Ben Duke has devised an entertainment, a mixture of dance and storytelling which has little to do with Milton’s epic poem but is no less ambitious in its own right..

As a dancer, Duke has an idiosyncratic style of movement, a mixture of frenetic jerks and impressive control when holding certain contorted positions. Only as Eve does his style become more fluid.

To put the audience at their ease, he first adopts the style of a hapless showman. Several ‘mistakes’ ensue but they are all deliberate, constructed to make us accept one man on a bare stage creating the heavens and the earth with nothing but a few props and plenty of juvenile sound effects - think little boys and toy guns.

There is something highly endearing about Duke (or at least his winsome stage persona) using his own experiences as a parent to examine what it is like to have disobedient offspring, or to see one’s child suffer an agonising death. The flip-side of this approach is that it trivialises Milton’s masterpiece on the one hand and runs the risk of being offensive on the other. In this version of the story, God approaches Lucifer on the stairs of a crowded club in heaven and asks for his phone number. He later becomes pregnant with Lucifer as the father. Later, God takes Jesus on the school run and swears at him.

What ultimately saves this show though, is the spectacle of a single artist who is both a dancer and a physical storyteller, imparting a tale of loss and regret through the powerful medium of his own body. There is little redemption here, but maybe Duke is saving that for the sequel, Paradise Regained, though he may need to do more with it than leave it unopened beside him next time.

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