A Ship Of Fools Theatre Company: Welcome to Paradise

Have you been more naughty or more nice this year? Are you sure?

Santa, it turns out, is a complete and utter git!

A company of gentlemanly vagabonds introduce themselves with a reminder to relax before the “Art” starts. Immensely likeable in the first manifestations of their multi-layered characters, the Captain and Raoul are charming clowns, who quickly engage the audience with their warm ups that leave everyone with a smile on their face. It's barmy, bounding buffoonery.

Mark Winstanley (who plays Raoul) is swiftly sent off to transform into a grubby, comically creepy Father Christmas who wants to know just how nice you have been. If you are lucky, you might get to sit on his knee and get a present. A showering of sweets gets all the boys and girls excited, as their chanting is rewarded with candy canes and love hearts. Even if clowning and audience harassment isn't usually your thing, this is a great deal of fun.

The watershed of the show is the appearance of our emaciated, turban wearing, tinsel shackled elf. The show falls of a cliff at this point and we all fall with it.

Santa, it turns out, is a complete and utter git!

The Captain, played by Charles Shetcliffe, as one of Santa's little helpers, embodies every economic slave everywhere and plays the role beautifully for laughs with a haunted eye on the leftover sweets. The horrific lynchpin of the piece is that everyone carries on laughing. Everyone carries on playing and carries on having a great time as we throw crumbs and beat our elven worker. It only gets darker as it moves forward. The final scene felt a bit anti-climactic though and lacked the impact of the rest of the show.

This is an expertly written and constructed show. The sudden change in tone is completely unexpected and yet the piece follows seamlessly through in it's theme and story. It takes a lot of skill to engineer such a change in mood. The fact that a secular Christmas is held so dear to so many, makes it the perfect target for some really inclusive shaming.

Instead of a love letter to the most wonderful time of the year, what we get is a searingly clever pile of hate mail. Many shows use entertainment to illuminate the dark patches in humanity. Welcome to Paradise does it exceptionally well. 

Reviews by Julia French

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

'Welcome to Paradise' lives somewhere between comedy and the dark side of theatre. Part double act, part Christmas show, part nightmare, it toys with the audience and subverts traditional images of Christmas to reveal the mold under the tree. It asks the audience to reflect on the cost and consequences their choices have on others less fortunate than ourselves and reminds them of their complicity in some of the horrors of the world. “I literally pissed myself... the cleverest, darkest, funniest comedy I have ever seen." (Jonny Unknown TFHP).

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