By Simon Gentry (not his real name)
This is probably too public a forum to admit this, but I’m planning a murder.
Specifically, I’m planning to murder a colleague.
He’s dearly loved by his colleagues, friends and family, I’m sure but, frankly, reader, I don’t care. You see, he has something that I want. I’ve asked for it politely, but he won’t give it to me, murder is my only option.
What does he have that can justify his murder, I imagine you’re wondering? He has a ticket. A ticket to a play. A ticket to Paradise, the new play by Kae Tempest, the poet and spoken word performer (you can hear her most well-known piece here). And I want it.
I saw Paradise at the National Theatre last Saturday and was very deeply impressed. It was brilliant, a triumph with simple sets and ten or so actors conjuring a whole world somewhere between ancient Greece and modern war-torn Syria. It was two hours of some of the best acting I think I’ve ever seen on a stage.
The play itself is a brilliant reworking of Philoctetes by Sophocles in which a heroic but injured soldier has been abandoned on an island and the person who abandoned him has come back to force him to fight again for the very people who betrayed him. If that sounds all a bit too highbrow, in this playwright’s hands it isn’t. Tempest’s poetry is famously plain and direct, and so is the play. I really can’t praise it enough.
I’m writing this as if I’m encouraging you to go and see it. And I am. Except that you can’t get a ticket for love nor money, which is why I’m going kill the one person I know has a ticket, so that I can see it again.
I want to see it again because it was an exciting emotional experience, but also because I need to know the answer to a question: Was the play as brilliant as I think it was, or is the fact that we’ve been starved of live theatre for 16 months that made it so special?
Emotionally, I found the play almost overwhelming at times, the agonies and ecstasies of the characters engulfed the auditorium, the acting so compelling that it was hard not to be shaken by it. Was it this specific play and these actors that generated this reaction? Or was that always the case with theatre? Is it the fact that you’re in the same room as the actors the thing that transforms it? Has 16 months away heightened my sensitivity to the power of theatre?
I’m not sure I really know the answer to those questions, but I loved the experience and am more keenly aware of the fact that we are very privileged to live in a place where there is theatre, that it deserves our support and that it’s a very powerful art form. I can’t wait to go back.
How I go about the actual killing I’m not sure about, but there are a few methods I could borrow from the play. Now, where did I leave my bow and arrows?