Our Theatre’s Paradiso is ostensibly a puppetry show about three men of different nationalities, reflecting on the last days of their lives before moving onto paradise. Unfortunately, in actuality it is a difficult to understand play about two old men leering at a woman, trying to intimidate a new arrival they see as a threat, and then being waved through to paradise by an angel who takes their vices off them first.
Watching Paradiso was painfully awkward.
The three men are portrayed by puppeteers using their own hands and legs, along with unarticulated heads and torsos. The puppets didn't seem necessary to tell the story, especially considering that the one woman in the cast didn't have one. Additionally the angle of the lighting, combined with the characters frequently wearing hats, meant that it was often difficult to see the puppets’ faces.
The play is predominantly physical, with short, easily understood dialogue in each character’s language (eg the oft repeated Italian “Bonita amore mio!”), so the relationships between the characters are clear throughout. However, the movement between scenes is often confusing, and there were two intervals of what looked like shadow puppetry on the back drape that were difficult to relate to the rest of the action.
The play begins with an old Italian and an old Frenchman sitting in the lobby of what appears to be some kind of hotel, served by a woman with 'comically' padded breasts and behind. The first scene was based entirely around her picking things up off the floor for the pair of old men, and them leering at her whenever they thought they could get away with it. Needless to say, this is not funny and nor is it the basis for a comic scene. The situation doesn’t improve when an English man (also a puppet) arrives and the two men take offense to the server’s apparent interest in him and his apparent lack of interest in them.
Unfortunately, the plot does not develop much further. The ‘humour’ was almost exclusively based on the old men harassing either the server or their new companion and didn't land. And the ‘paradiso’ element at the end of the play is inexplicable and infuriating, considering how badly the characters treat the server as well as the angel played by the same actress.
Watching Paradiso was painfully awkward from the beginning, but as the characters continually failed to develop and the plot failed to challenge the characters' sexism, it only got worse.