Tag Archives: Rosie Elnile

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


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The Wellspring

The Wellspring


Royal & Derngate Theatre

The Wellspring

The Wellspring

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 24th March 2022



“a charming vignette of the relationship between a son and his father”


The stage of the Theatre Royal is stripped back to its battered rear wall (Designer Rosie Elnile). Within the space stands a trailer full of property – someone is moving house perhaps – tables, chairs, carpet, a music stand. Seemingly abandoned at the front of the stage is a rather strange looking piano. A projection screen (Video Design Megan Lucas) resembles a giant mobile phone. It shows two compasses inscribed with town names: London – Paris – Oxford – Long Buckby. We soon discover the relevance of each of these places for one or other of our two characters.

These characters are father and son, David and Barney. Played by real life father and son, concert pianist David Owen Norris and playwright Barney Norris. And co-authored by them too. It is a curious piece scripted as a play with the subtitle “A Memory Cycle”. It is essentially a series of alternating monologues with some small amount of interaction between the two actor/performer/family members. Jude Christian directs their effortless movement around the stage.

David softly plays the piano whilst Barney talks. Barney (inexplicably) cooks dinner during David’s turn. Home video images from thirty years ago are projected onto the screen, sharing with us a small part of their past lives together. David relates some stories, mere snippets of story really, about how he has reached this point in his career; he seems satisfied with how things have turned out. Barney worries about where his career is heading; he seems anxious of his future. David says of Barney near the end, “You’ve made your story sadder than mine” and we feel that the younger man hasn’t yet found what he is looking for; this collaboration being part of his search for an answer.

There’s an ample amount of humour in the narration. This audience enjoys the references to speaking with a Northamptonshire accent, so rarely heard nowadays, even in Northampton. And there is some pain too: the audience sighs in empathy of David’s experiences in Sydney and at Barney’s bruising street encounter.

The musical interludes that reflect the stories are delightful. David’s doodlings at the keyboard appear effortless: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Elgar, even some pieces of his own. Barney turns the tables and takes his own place on the piano stool for some Schubert. Barney’s soft baritone renditions of both faux and real English folk songs make you realise he has other talents if the script-writing business goes south.

This short performance is a charming vignette of the relationship between a son and his father. Is there anything to be learned from their cycle of memories? “You take the music where you find it” is the most profound reflection to carry away from the evening. Perhaps too, a desire to hear Barney sing in a real folk club and to hear David play on a proper piano.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Robert Day


The Wellspring

Royal and Derngate Theatre until 26th March


Recently reviewed at this venue:
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | November 2021


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