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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, October 08, 2010

Dirty Paradise, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Dirty Paradise

Tron, Glasgow
3 out of 5

It has the hallmarks of a run-of-the-mill one-woman show. Inspired by a Gabriel García Márquez story? Check. Woman going on a voyage of self-discovery? Check. Flashbacks to troubled adolescence? Check. But there is something else going on in this 75-minute monologue, and it's not just the vibrant performance by writer Leann O'Kasi.

It takes a while to figure out what it is; why director Alison Peebles has made Steve Bain's excellent sound score so intrusive, and why O'Kasi's first-person narration should turn more inward-looking still. The answer is that her character, Maria Cruz, is not just another holidaying Londoner seeking reinvention amid the sexy rhythms of Brazil. Much more unsettlingly, she is a woman who is plagued by voices in her head. In its moments of greatest intensity, Dirty Paradise brilliantly conveys what a disturbing and dislocating condition that must be.

In one poignant scene, Maria makes a drawing of how it feels to hear the sound of unseen people crying, hectoring and squabbling. By the end of the speech, the paper is a scribbled mess.

O'Kasi, who has proved herself an incisive director in productions such as Topdog/Underdog at the Citizens, shows herself to be equally intelligent as a writer and actor in a supple, vivid and assured performance. She holds the attention on Arlene Wandera's car-wreck set every step of the way.

After its initial promise, however, the story pulls its punches: the cacophony of Brazil not only eases the noise inside Maria's head, it lessens the emotional impact of her fear, stigma and isolation. The concluding psychological explanation for her condition is too convenient a way to resolve a dilemma that has been so disturbingly evoked. Having unleashed such dark forces, O'Kasi could have rattled us even more before claiming her happy ending.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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