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  • Writer's pictureleodoulton

Coming To Paradise: Here, and how we got here

I’m writing this just a few days after finishing a Theatre Deli London Classic Residency developing Paradise Craved, a show about a fallen angel lost in the city.

As ever, I am going to erupt into blogs to try and form some ideas into some sort of reflection on what happened.

You can read other blogs about Paradise Craved here, but behind the scenes, Paradise Craved began around 2021 as an idea I used for the endless trudge of applications that counts as existence in the arts.

Beyond a rather satisfying title, it has consistently involved angels, interactivity, and some kind of relationship to Paradise Lost, a book I have a… rather consistent love of, ever since I read an edition with an introduction by Philip Pullman explaining that it is meant to be read aloud.

Beyond that, it has shifted quite wildly over the years. Partly for artistic reasons, often but not always because I wanted to twist it to fit different applications’ needs.

It has been a five-room show, each haunted by a different angel.

It has been a meditation on split identities; growing up in the War on Terror; feeling lost in the city.

Once, it was even an attempt to tell the story of Paradise Lost quite literally, with the audience situated as warring factions of angels. This would have required a lot of resources.

It had almost died by 2022, when it was rejected once again by a funding opportunity. But then the Artistic Director behind that opportunity got in touch to say that it had almost made it. Just off from success.

From there, it became something with a fairly plausible pitch, and a set of scrawled notes on a growing number of pieces of paper, trying to connect the various floating ideas. This version, complete with ideas about a piece of interactive theatre focused on how we bear losing, rather than trying to win, became my successful pitch for the Theatre Deli residency.

Over the past fortnight, it has rapidly developed into a piece that has at its best been heartbreaking, and at its worst has been a mess that vexes its audience. Especially ones who really did not like losing.

It has also been a space where people can speak about things that are very difficult, and making that space has been delightful. Interactive theatre is the form that allows people in the lonely 21st century to meet and speak with each other.

Since then, it has staggered and reeled onwards, into an generally new draft that fixes many of the spaces it needed fixing in the sharing/playtests, and emphasises the areas that really worked.

What’s the real centre of this piece?

For me, it’s a feeling evoked for me by the title. The idea of desperate wanting for something that cannot be gained. Where do you find the meaning that we lack? And how do you bear the emptiness? How do we treat a being so thoroughly broken and filled with hate?

It is a want for a piece of interactive immersive theatre that is as beautiful and moving as conventional theatre, not just as fun as a video game.

Be not afraid.

We are here to find answers.

A shadowy reflection of a figure in a purple shirt-jacket, long dark hair, and angel wings made of scraps of metal, string, and paper. It is the author, Leo Doulton.


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