Edinburgh review: This is Paradise – Traverse Theatre

First published in The Times, Saturday August 6 2022


The Good Friday Agreement has been much in the news lately, whether in the context of wrangles over the future of the Northern Ireland protocol, or as the backdrop to the highly praised final episode of the sitcom Derry Girls. The Easter weekend of 1998 is also the setting for Michael John O’Neill’s powerful monologue, This is Paradise, but the spectacle of triumphant politicians with pens in hands and the weight of history on their shoulders is held very much at one remove.   

Instead of joining in with the pervading sense of hope for the future, the play’s protagonist, Kate (Amy Molloy), has retreated into her troubled past. In her thirties, married to the benign Brendy, pregnant, and anxiously awaiting her 12-week scan, Kate receives a call that jolts her back in time, stirring memories of Diver, 20 years her senior, and immersed in the violence of the Troubles, who groomed her, threatened her, and finally left her with a broken and distorted sense of self. 

Pic: Lottie Amor

This is a quest narrative of sorts: we follow Kate as she makes what at first appears an inadvisable journey to the north coast of the island, ostensibly to check up on her former lover, but also to confront her own simmering fears. The taut, lyrical script allows brief diversions into the other relationships in Kate’s life, whether with her husband, her disheartened father or Joe, the tragic object of her teenage passion.

Pic: Lottie Amor

There are obvious parallels between Kate’s attempt to “knock a new shape to things”, as she puts it, and Northern Ireland’s difficult, ongoing reconciliation with its violent past, but O’Neill never labours this point, over 85 minutes maintaining a laser-like focus on the young woman at the heart of his play, while the Big P politics remains a blur in the distance. Katherine Nesbitt’s clean, intimate production for the Traverse, subtly lit by Colin Grenfell, and with understated music and sound design from Danny Krass, places due emphasis on Molloy’s spellbinding performance as a woman on a fearless quest for redemption.    

Box office: 0131 228 1404, to Aug 28. Traverse.co.uk

Author: Allan Radcliffe

I am a writer, freelance journalist, subeditor and theatre critic, based in South Queensferry. My short fiction has been published in anthologies such as Out There, Elsewhere, The Best Gay Short Stories, ImagiNation, Markings, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and Celtic View. I have won the Scottish Book Trust's New Writer's Award and several of my stories have been adapted for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. As a journalist I write regularly for The Times, the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald, Sunday Times, Metro, Big Issue and I was formerly assistant editor of The List magazine.

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