Montreal-based Paul van Dyck brings imagination and passion to this polished one-man telling of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Using puppetry, computer visuals, music and an incredible variety of voices, he is a masterful storyteller who makes Milton's 17th century epic accessible and relevant.
Eve's temptation by the inventively designed snake is delightfully creepy, and the sexual desire between Adam and Eve visceral and believable.
The play starts after the battle in heaven, weaving through the council in Hell, Sin, Adam and Eve and the snake in the Garden of Eden. The poem is trimmed to make it a play of characters, all of which van Dyck transforms himself into niftily, using not much more than some curtains, a mask and a pair of puppets. If it sounds bizarre, it is, but this reflects the drama and extremity of Milton's great epic. Van Dyck begins bare-chested, bringing to mind Milton's bruised and masculine images of Satan, “majestic though in ruin”, with his “Atlantean shoulders” and a sign of the ruin that has occurred. The heightened sense of physicality here also contrasts with the absent God, upstairs in the “tyranny of heaven”, unarguably the least interesting and sympathetic character in Paradise Lost.
Portraying Satan at the counsel, van Dyck transforms into a slickly media-savvy modern-day politician, addressing the audience and echoing the text's political roots by bringing contemporary relevance to Milton's disappointment at the Cromwellian revolution turned sour. He flatters, beguiles and plays on the the pride of the fallen angels and us the audience, using soundbite-friendly grand rhetoric that allows Satan to manipulate his listeners so well.
As Satan schemes to wreak his revenge on God by corrupting his new mankind, it is fitting that Adam and Eve are portrayed by puppets. This undermines the concept of free will, indicating an inevitability to Eve's temptation and the Fall of Man. Eve's temptation by the inventively designed snake is delightfully creepy, and the sexual desire between Adam and Eve visceral and believable.
Milton purists may be disappointed with the substantial cuts to the text, but its medley of characters and voices overcomes the authorial absence, presenting a heightened theatricality that will make Paradise Lost accessible and exciting to newcomers. There are even some laughs.