If it’s a brave decision to bring ‘Paradise Lost’ to the stage – God knows Milton decided he wasn’t up to it – then Fourth Monkey Theatre Company is showing no fear, putting its boisterous, immersive interpretation of the epic religious poem on in a warehouse in E14. Somewhere between a drama school and a rep company, Fourth Monkey has assembled a gigantic mixed ability cast and charged at Milton’s text with boundless energy and enthusiasm.
There’s a solid turn from saturnine Reuben Beau Davies as Lucifer and some sweet and canny pre-verbal flirtation between Leanne Bennet’s Eve and Scott McGarrick’s Adam, but also a lot of awkward ad-libbing and undercooked attempts at immersion and promenade.
Though the text has been intelligently adapted, director Ailin Conant has failed to find a strong dramatic through-line for her young cast. It feels more like she’s straining to give ‘em all a go, than to create the most cohesive experience for her audience.
There are some electric moments though: the devils tumbling into hell through a basement window, and the court of Pandemonium where devils crawl between the kneeling crowd. And audience members are guided to a delicate, mournful climax as they make their solitary way back to the DLR.
By Stewart Pringle