When you encounter small groups of the cast on mini-roundabouts and brick walls before you even reach the location of a theatrical performance, you get an inkling that it might be an unusual one. And Fourth Monkey's new adaptation of John Miton's epic poem Paradise Lost is certainly that.
Experienced (a more appropriate description than watched) in a warehouse space in London's Docklands, this show puts a wrecking ball through the fourth wall, with cast members leading the audience through Heaven, Hell and the Garden of Eden. At first the requests from the cast to follow them and the story around two large rooms are met with bemusement or even resistance, but relaxing into this experience is the best way to enjoy it.
The show begins in Heaven, a room of white walls and floors and arty paintings. When Satan (an extremely charismatic Reuben Beau Davies) falls from grace we are ushered into Hell, all red lights, crumpled newspapers and tortured souls tumbling into the fiery abyss.
After the initial scenes, we flit mainly between Hell and a leaf-strewn Garden of Eden, following the story of Satan and his corruption of simpletons Adam (Scott McGarrick) and Eve (Leanne Bennet), with some apposite cameos from the tormented Sin (Ami Sayers) and her creepy son Death (a very physical performance from Daniel Chrisostomou), Gabriel (Sadie Clark), Raphael (a dandy Adam Trussell) and other lesser angels.
Paradise Lost relies heavily on the original text by Milton, bringing it to life through a heady mix of immersive staging, moody lighting, choreographed movement and singing. When taken together, these elements combine into a bold piece which is quite unlike anything I'd seen before. If it's possible for something to feel like it's both trying a bit too hard and succeeding, this is it.
This show won't be everyone's cup of tea. But if you want to experience a different type of theatre that includes performance poetry, angels in white woolly hats and Kylie-esque white jumpsuits and a possible (in my case literal) brush with Death, hop on the DLR to East India and give this a whirl.