Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Downtown Paradise

Wales Fargo , Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff , September-25-14
Downtown Paradise  by Wales Fargo Downtown Paradise is a tautly-written, compelling piece of theatre based on the true story of a white American human rights lawyer who fell in love with her jailed Black Panther client at the end of the 1960s. But this is no sentimental romance. It is a tragedy born of intense emotion and political naivety that is destined to have no happy ending.

Director Michael Kelligan production does full justice to a script that contains no spare words. From the moment wheelchair-bound Rachel Bloom (Catriona James) starts to speak, we are involved in a captivating experience that is sustained for the duration of the play.

The action is stripped down with no superfluous scenes, and the fact that just two actors deliver the performance without an interval forces us to concentrate on their doomed relationship and nothing else. It is only afterwards - when we have had time to think - that we reflect on the wider significance of what we have witnessed.

James provides a powerful portrayal of the principled lawyer whose emotional involvement with her client leads her to make a fatal mistake.
Habib Nasib Nader as James Wilson makes a credible Black Panther leader whose charisma proves his undoing.

Staged by the Welsh Fargo Stage Company, Mark Jenkins' script delivers a genuinely highly charged play that in less skilful hands could have descended into melodrama.

Not to be missed.

Taliesin Art Centre, Swansea Thurs. Sept 18 7.30pm, Tickets 10/7, (01792 60 20 60)
The Riverfront, Newport Thurs Sept 25 7.45pm, Tickets 10.50/8.50, (01633 656757)
Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli Thurs. Oct. 2 7.30pm, Tickets 8.50/7, (01758 704088)

Reviewed by: Martin Shipton

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