|Washed Away: A review of Judgement in Paradise|
Guardian Copy Editor
Published: Jun 09, 2012
Judgement in Paradise, written and directed by award-winning filmmaker-turned-playwright Adrian Wildgoose, promised the end of the world – well, The Bahamas – as we know it, but delivered something quite different.
In the context of destruction, Wildgoose tried to hold a magnifying glass to Bahamian society by highlighting issues like religious hypocrisy, lack of political accountability, familial neglect and national dependence.
The play really focussed on the relationship issues of the protagonist, Destiny Wilshine, with her father, Christian; her grandfather, Grandpa Wilshine, and her best friend, Chance. Subsequently, Christian Wilshine (well-placed irony) sells The Bahamas to foreign investor Seymour Bucks, who then renames the archipelago “Laziton”.
While this is going on, reporter Terry Smith is convinced by a Mayan priest that The Bahamas is meant to be destroyed on December 21, 2012, which she feels she must share with the rest of the country.
Firstly, I have to commend the cast because they clearly put a lot of work into the production and their effort can not go unnoticed. It was a cast of young people, many of whom were COB students and alumni. Though some shone brighter than others, I didn't see one person on stage that made me remember I was watching people act. The players clearly had a sense of character and where they fit into the story.
So, did I come away feeling I had watched a good show? Not exactly. The fundamental element that was missing in this play was strong writing. Perhaps with the desire to tackle so many pressing issues, Wildgoose was being over ambitious. The play seemed chock full of issues and themes and perspectives, but there was a serious lack of cohesion.
In terms of characters, some were written and directed with a lot of insight into life and the human condition. Others... not so much. Many characters were written and directed with comedy or furtherance of one of the various plots rather than realism in mind.
The character of the journalist was trying to convince The Bahamas to be prepared for the end of the world, but she never said why (“Because the Mayans said so” is not much of an explanation). At the same time, the radio talk show host, Haroldina Thriller, had moments of gold and moments when I wondered if she was on the radio or at the hairdresser. Two characters that should have provided the bulk of the insight into the situation had no insight to offer.
The elephant in the room with productions at The College of The Bahamas (COB) is often the technical issues. So needless to say, the lighting in the Performing Arts Centre (PAC) needs to be revamped for plays. Unfortunately from the middle of the theater, the glare of the state-of-the-art concert lights made it impossible to see the characters and it actually hurt my eyes after a while.
In addition to that, many would argue the use of microphones by the cast was a serious faux pas. Many would argue the opposite. The clincher? When the microphones didn't work, the audience couldn't hear the actors at all. This seldom happens when you use the good old lungs and project – something easily done in a theater like the PAC, which has less than 500 seats.
All in all, the concept of the play was brilliant, as well as the use of the Wilshine family as the audience’s window into the situation. But plays are about people – their wants, their actions and their purposes. Many players ended up just on stage acting, when they should have been playing three-dimensional characters with purpose.
This was a valiant effort by young people in theater that is absolutely essential for growth – both of the individuals and the industry. Wildgoose and his vibrant cast should be commended for taking the time to contribute to Bahamian theater, and hopefully, they will continue to produce and learn.