Many Roads to Paradise

Anthony Biggs’ production of Stewart Permutt’s play flicks between several interconnecting storylines and manages to effectively analyse the development and breakdown of relationships. It is an intriguing piece in many aspects and broaches the topics of homophobia, racism and what constitutes friendship, however the writing fails to delve deep enough into them and the end result left too much feeling unresolved.Helen’s long-standing relationship with her bitter puss in boots partner Avril is at a crunch point, while her boss’s obsession with men half his age leads to his experiences ending in inevitable disappointment as he revolves to a stereotypical “sugar daddy” role. It is, however, Helen’s dementia stricken mother who is the most interesting character in the play and the relationships around her are by far the most complex and meaningful. Thelma Ruby is on fine form as she captures every essence of the ailing Stella, and her friendship with her Somalian carer Sadia (played truthfully by Elizabeth Uter) reflects the love that she should, but never manages to, share with her daughter. It is a beautifully expressed perusal of how we are so often seen in our worst light when around those we consider closest to us.With the different stories running independent of one another at first before merging at the start of the second act, David Kidd’s smartly focussed lighting manages to hide Cherry Truluck’s slightly pasty design. However, the most significant problem with the production is the extent to which the scenes are so fragmented. It simply allows too little time to be drawn totally into the action. On several occasions, I started to become enthralled by a scene only for the lights to dim and a separate, unrelated part of the narrative would take over. There is also a real lack of finality at the end of the romance between Martin and Leo, and the extent to which they fail to add any true depth to the piece left me wondering why these characters had been written in the first place.There is much to be admired about this production though, and with Amanda Boxer always making use of some of Avril’s terrifically amusing snide comments, there is never a laugh far away. It is just a pity that after a successful original run at the Finborough Theatre, the opportunity was not taken to develop the piece further into a more complete and well polished work.

Reviews by John C Kennedy

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The Blurb

Across a crowded karaoke bar, chunky travel agent Martin nervously catches the eye of his not-so-young internet stud. At a Jewish residential care home, blind and elderly Stella shares make-up and millinery tips with her Muslim nurse. And in their spacious house, a long-term lesbian relationship crumbles as Helen and her alcoholic partner squabble viciously over fig and honey tart. Six people whose lives are inextricably linked, each searching for some kind of salvation. But with so many roads to paradise, which one will they choose?

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