Tag Archives: Rakhee Thakrar

Paradise Now

Paradise Now!


Bush Theatre

PARADISE NOW! at the Bush Theatre


Paradise Now

“Jaz Woodcock-Stewart’s direction makes so much sense and is so smooth and clever, that it lifts the play further off the page”


There’s a moment when the man handing over my ticket says: “You do know the running time is 2 hours 40, right? Including interval!” that I thought ‘how can I make a polite run for it?’ Afterall, as he pointed out, most plays at the Bush Theatre are little more than an hour. I hadn’t eaten, I’d travelled an hour to get to West London; my dog was at home. 2 hours 40 feels like a long time for a play in 2022.

It turns out that I would sit through six more hours of Paradise Now! (by Margaret Perry). I would accept days of an Inheritance-like sprawl of this play – about an intergenerational group of women dealing with loneliness and unfulfilled ambition, as they get sucked into the heady world of multi-level marketing by Alex (Shazia Nicholls).

Five women, from different ages and backgrounds, all on a quest to find meaning in life. The story focuses on Gabriel Dolan (Michele Moran), who lives in a London houseshare with her big sister Baby (Carmel Winters) and TV-presenter-wannabee Carla (Ayoola Smart). Gabriel has recently experienced a significant depressive episode, something her big sister reminds her of constantly when she comes home from her retail job, knackered. “You won’t sleep on the couch again, will you?” Gabriel asks, and Baby immediately falls asleep on the couch.

Gabriel’s journey into selling essential oils to other women is motivated by wanting to help her sister get out of the 30,000 hours she’s given to the store – there’s a heartbreaking scene at the very end of the play where Baby says no-one even gave her a leaving card when she retired (but even the most heartbreaking moments are riddled with Perry’s wry jokes and whip-sharp commentary on life).

Enter the stage: Alex, a woman who recruits other women to sell essential oils. She’s glamorous, an excellent seller, but cracks of insecurity start to show. She’s acted brilliantly by Nicholls, who manages to convey the multi-faceted personality of this multi-level marketing guru with precision and humour. She encourages women who feel they have nothing to be proud of in life to start mini-businesses and become someone – in this case, by selling “a little touch of luxury at an affordable price point.” But she’s no saint, as we see her begin to unravel throughout the play – at one point while being attacked by a robot vacuum cleaner.

The essential oils business (called Paradise) is marketed as a ‘team, a family’, and our band of characters enter into the business with varying levels of enthusiasm. For some, like Gabriel, it appears to be a lifeline, and offers a chance for her to experience a different kind of life where people believe in her for the very first time. The enthusiasm is perfectly tempered by Anthie (Annabel Baldwin), Carla’s girlfriend, who, as an outsider, brings a note of healthy skepticism to the proceedings. Baldwin uses their face to convey bafflement at what’s going on throughout, and they have both outstanding comic timing and dance skills, employed to show their fruitless search for success.

My only (tiny) criticism is the script’s tendency to throw in exciting-sounding backstories that aren’t fully explored. Laurie (a slightly unhinged and blunt character played exquisitely by Rakhee Thakrar) reminds Alex multiple times that she knows her from school. Alex can’t remember her, but we never found out what happened at school to make her reappear in the very offbeat way she has. There’s also a coming-out memory, which didn’t feel completely necessary.

However, these minor dramaturgical questions aren’t enough to detract from the sheer joy of a production that sings: there’s simply no real bum note. The writing is sharp and with one-liners genuinely so funny that the actors sometimes swagger when they say them because they know they’d raise the roof at a stand-up set. The set is modern, dynamic, with space-saving furniture devices that would leave IKEA begging for the patent from set-designer Rosie Elnile. Jaz Woodcock-Stewart’s direction makes so much sense and is so smooth and clever, that it lifts the play further off the page and thrusts it to even greater heights than the already tight and genius-script.

It is, fundamentally, a joy, with meditations on ambition, exploitation and loneliness all delivered in a way that makes the audience genuinely empathise with the characters.

Go, go twice, go again. You’ll have no regrets.



Reviewed on 9th December 2022

by Eleanor Ross

Photography by Helen Murray



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Lava | ★★★★ | July 2021
Favour | ★★★★ | June 2022
The P Word | ★★★ | September 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews


There or Here – 3.5 Stars


There or Here

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 25th January 2018


“The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn”


In recent times almost no industry has been spared from jobs being outsourced overseas, but in There or Here the audience are asked what happens when life, or at least the gestation of it, is outsourced? Written by Jennifer Maisel, There or Here looks at the relationship between reproductive autonomy and parenthood, fertility tourism, marital disconnect and emigrant connection to their birthplace.

Robyn and Ajay (played by Lucy Fenton and Chris Nayak), are an American couple desperate to make plans for the future before the present catches up with them. Robyn’s cancer diagnosis has brought an immediacy to decisions about starting a family and so, wanting a child that is biologically theirs, the couple seek out a surrogate in India.

The play is set in early 2006 but alternates between past and present, centring around the week the couple spend in India arranging the surrogacy. Both Fenton and Nayak give convincing performances at such a critical juncture in any relationship.

Apart from the outsourcing central to the plot, we see other forms of outsourced labour made possible by technology in a globalised world. With the cancer and surrogacy causing a strain on their relationship, Robyn and Ajay talk very little to each other, preferring instead to open up to a technical support operator, drive-through attendant or even phone-sex worker. Rakhee Thakrar is versatile as all three and more, although underutilised as merely a sounding board for the leads monologued frustrations. Ursula Mohan and Manish Ghandi double up as the surrogate’s doctor and husband in India and Robyn’s mother and mother’s much younger toy boy in America, for some light comic relief.

The play teeters toward melodrama in the second half as the plot takes an unexpected turn. It feels as if Maisel is trying to cover too much ground and given the complex themes would have benefitted from a less confused outcome.

There or here was produced by Special Relationship productions, whose mission is to “find work that features underrepresented demographics”, boasting for this production “an entirely female, BAME, and/or LGBTQ+ cast and crew”, something that unfortunately is still all too rare in British Theatre. It is the combination of the authentic performances, sound, visuals and set under Vik Sivalingam’s direction that make for an overall engaging and thought provoking show.


Reviewed by Amber Woodward

Photography by Ikin Yum


There or Here

Park Theatre until 17th February



Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com