Michael John O’Neill’s This is Paradise takes place in 1998 in Belfast, just as the Good Friday Agreement is signed bringing supposed peace to the nation. However, away from the political turmoil, O’Neill’s play explores the life of Kate, swapping countrywide tragedy for that of the personal kind.
The one-woman monologue follows Kate, played by Amy Molloy, a woman entering her thirties, who is thrust back into the life of an ex-partner after a phone call regarding concerns for his welfare. O’Neill’s beautifully crafted text allows Kate’s story to unravel, exploring the various relationships that still haunt her. Undertones of the impact of the IRA and Orange Order are subtly placed throughout the story, certainly adding to it but not overshadowing it, instead allowing Kate’s own struggles to be put to the forefront.
From the moment Molloy steps onto the catwalk-like rostra centre stage, she demands the audience’s attention. She has a strong stage presence, which is essential for a production of this type, being the only person on stage. Molloy exhibits a range of emotions throughout the piece. She does this in such a naturalistic way that it would be easy to forget you are watching a play and not listening to a real person tell a story.
In regard to design, This is Paradise is simplistic but effective. Lulu Tam’s set design consists of a white catwalk-like rostrum which has red cracks laced throughout. Such a design could easily represent the cracks of Ireland at this point in history or the cracks of Kate’s own life. Molloy utilises this rostrum by standing or sitting on it to deliver the text, taking up a new position in each scene.
Danny Krass’ sound design beautifully underscores some more emotional moments of the production by being subtly introduced. However, arguably, the music isn’t completely necessary and detracts from Molloy’s spectacular performance. Often, the most impactful moments were when she was talking. In addition, Colin Grenfell’s lighting design could easily go unnoticed at times. It seemed that the lighting state would change each time a new scene began. However, there were times when some states weren’t that different to those previous, making the change somewhat pointless.
It is clear that the director, Katherine Nesbitt, wanted to create a production that captured human emotion in a natural and subtle way and there is no doubt that she succeeded in this. The energy of the performance remains high throughout but often remains in the same place – Kate is happy, Kate is sad and so on. While this is a very real human experience, there were times when this could get a bit monotonous. With the entire performance being around an hour and 20 minutes long, this factor could make it drag at points. However, Molloy’s fantastic performance keeps the audience engaged until the very end, hoping that the character gets a happy ending.
This is Paradise plays until August 28th at the Traverse Theatre and tickets can be found here.
Reviewer: Dylan Mooney
Reviewed: 5th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★