Jerry Killick and Stacey Sampson are starting over. Fed up with the world as it is, they’re trying again, making new rules and fixing what’s wrong. Alone together on stage, they construct this new world around them, assembling the walls and slotting together tables and chairs. Except moral principles and decision-making processes are a little trickier than flat-pack furniture.
As the title suggests, Third Angel’s new show is about building paradise – or at least trying to. In a scenario unsettlingly free of context, two people (the performers vary from show to show) are in search of utopia. In little vignettes, they talk in circles, playing games with language and ideas. They debate what should and shouldn’t be allowed, what’s right and what’s wrong, how to distribute resources equitably. In between these discussions, they take it in turn to read from a series of files, each outlining previous attempts to establish a better world. All of them have failed.
The trouble is, decisions are always specific rather than abstract. As Sampson argues, almost everything – from killing to theft – is justifiable under certain circumstances. How can you create the framework for a new, better society without knowing all the particulars? It’s all very well writing rules in theory, but in practice rules are inevitably bent. What happens when one person’s need is greater than another? And who has the final say when disagreements are insurmountable?
As a set of knotty philosophical discussions, The Paradise Project is fascinating. These are questions that we as a society need to be constantly grappling with, accepting that we might never reach an answer yet insistently asking nonetheless. But it all feels a little distant, the ideas as cool and clinical as José Capela’s pristine white set. There are smatterings of humour, but precious little other emotion. And without reaching into the heart, how can we ever hope to discover paradise?