Review Round-up: Paradise, National Theatre


Olivier Theatre, National Theatre.

Press night: 11 August. 

In a new adaption of the Greek legend by Kae Tempest, Philoctetes (Lesley Sharp) has been left on an island for ten years by Odysseus (Anastasia Hille) who has now returned at a moment of need for the Greeks, accompanied by Neoptolemus (Gloria Obianyo), son of the now dead Achilles, to attempt to return Philoctetes and his famous weapon to battle.

Our critic gave the production four stars and described it as:

A sizzling critique of modern society, its political fluctuations, materialism and inequality through this 2,500 year old story of three soldiers on a desolate island…a blistering and ferocious performance by Sharp.

Read the full review here. But did other critics agree?

Critic Reviews:

The Times (paywall) 

Sharp is like the wiriest, angriest but sharpest old gym teacher you ever met as Philoctetes, the star soldier now living on his wits and the rats he roasts in his cave

The Telegraph (paywall) ★☆

It’s the allusive, lyrical passages that work best: ESKA, as the all-seeing Aunty, dances through their silky rhythms. There’s interesting dissection here of myths old and new, but in trying to create one for our age, Tempest can’t quite give us a play for the ages.

The Guardian  

The actors play their parts as a self-conscious performance of bellicose masculinity, growling or rounding on each other, perennially coiled for a fight. It effectively undermines the notion of heroic masculinity, but also holds the actors back from humanising their parts. When they speak, they shout, rasping in hoarseness, and we crave a tonal gear-change. For all its volume, there is not enough action or dramatic intensity between characters.

Evening Standard  

Lesley Sharp owns the stage as Philoctetes, rollicking around like a wheeler dealer who revels in their own legend. She fizzes with rage and resentment, then quivers with vulnerability, inhabiting every inch of the arc of the hero’s tragedy.