How many of us haven’t had occasional fantasies of walking away from stressful jobs and responsibilities and escaping to a life of paradise?
Tonight (part of the Manchester Fringe Festival) we meet newlywed couple Les and Ali – getting ready to jet off on their Ibiza honeymoon following a lavish wedding that Ali isn’t sure they should have gone through with. Not because she doesn’t adore Les, but because of the £30,000 bill she doesn’t know how they’ll pay off.
As they settle into their island life, they contemplate making a permanent change of scene. Ali, the pragmatist falls in love with an apparent stray dog she names Jonathan whilst fretting about their responsibilities back home. Les, the impulsive dreamer, imagines the home they could create in a crumbling villa he spots for sale.
Thanks to the local wildlife, and a career bombshell Les drops over dinner, there are a number of stings to the tale that they must navigate as they mull over what they want in life and whether uprooting themselves will result in Paradise won.
Written and directed by Mike Heath, it’s a warm, well focused and engaging exploration of love and partnership, with witty, relatable dialogue and likeable characters. In actors Nicole Evans (Ali) and Darren John Langford (Les) Heath has found two performers who deliver lovely chemistry and contrast in their roles, building up to a nicely tense finale as to whether they will take the plunge or accept the weight of reality and return home.
The studio space of the Kings Arms is used well, with light-touch sound and lighting affects to create the (sometimes oppressive) heat and vibrancy of island life. There are some wonderfully funny moments of physicality including an unfortunate encounter with a scorpion and when, despite protestations from Ali, both experiment with party drugs at a club night.
It’s a largely tight one-act play although with a slightly slow-burn start. A passionately delivered rant from Les on the horrors of Brexit and the vilification of asylum seekers feels a bit clumsily shoehorned in.
But it’s a fun and uplifting piece, even if a financial cloud stays hanging over our plucky couple, instilling a lovely thread of optimism whether one chooses to keep a holiday going forever or not.
Reviewer: Lou Steggals
Reviewed: 12th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: