Wow! The reviews for Downtown Paradise are in and we are delighted with the response. Last chance to catch this amazing production is tomorrow – Thursday October 2nd at Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli.
It all starts at 7.30pm and tickets are just £8.50 or £7.00 concessions – telephone (01758 704088) to reserve yours.
“The studio at the Riverfront lent itself well to this powerful drama penned by Mark Jenkins and tightly directed by Michael Kelligan.
Based on true events, Catriona James and Habib Nasib Nader took on two complex and demanding roles of controversial Jewish lawyer, Rachel Bloom and jailed Black Panther leader, James Wilson.
Intimate and almost suffocating at times, a sparse set credibly intimated the 1970s prison cell in which Wilson had initially been incarcerated for a year, but was subsequently on trial for life. With professionalism firmly on the back boiler, Bloom called on her unhappy Jewish childhood to align her beliefs to those of the dangerously militant black rights leader, and in obsessively committing herself to securing his freedom, she also became personally involved with him.
In two mesmerising performances, hopefulness gradually turned to darkness and eventually despair as we witnessed the unravelling of two different sets of ideals.
With palpable chemistry, the two characters breathtakingly demonstrated the themes of privilege versus inequality, and gradually the hopelessness of the situation became as clear as it was tragic.
Timeless, thought provoking and relevant.”
“Downtown Paradise is a tautly-written, compelling piece of theatre based on the true story of a white American human rights lawyer who fell in love with her jailed Black Panther client at the end of the 1960s. But this is no sentimental romance. It is a tragedy born of intense emotion and political naivety that is destined to have no happy ending.
Director Michael Kelligan production does full justice to a script that contains no spare words. From the moment wheelchair-bound Rachel Bloom (Catriona James) starts to speak, we are involved in a captivating experience that is sustained for the duration of the play.
The action is stripped down with no superfluous scenes, and the fact that just two actors deliver the performance without an interval forces us to concentrate on their doomed relationship and nothing else. It is only afterwards – when we have had time to think – that we reflect on the wider significance of what we have witnessed.
James provides a powerful portrayal of the principled lawyer whose emotional involvement with her client leads her to make a fatal mistake.
Habib Nasib Nader as James Wilson makes a credible Black Panther leader whose charisma proves his undoing.
Staged by the Welsh Fargo Stage Company, Mark Jenkins’ script delivers a genuinely highly charged play that in less skilful hands could have descended into melodrama.
Not to be missed.”
Timely in its depiction of deeply held beliefs which almost imperceptibly tumble over into extremism, Downtown Paradise takes two characters seemingly fighting for the same cause, ultimately discovering their worlds are irreconcilable.
Set in the 1960s, Catriona James is visionary lawyer Rachel Bloom, blinded to reality by her mission to assist and free her potentially bankable new client, but failing to see how her wider, self-serving agenda will impact on him. Habib Nasib Nader is the imprisoned Black Panther freedom fighter James Wilson who manipulated into sharing his manifesto when it suits Rachel’s cause. But he is furious at finding its more radical messages have been diluted for public consumption, when he finally believed he could express his real feelings.
Both performers are excellent, from their initial verbal sparring as she seeks to win his trust, to more tender confidences as they start an ill-starred affair, before the full force of their stated convictions finally shows up the tremendous gulf that neither has previously acknowledged.
A sparse set of designer prison bars frames their conflict, focusing attention on the pair as their applauded fight for justice descends into destruction.
Directed by Michael Kelligan, this is a Welsh Fargo Stage company production well worth seeing.
Review by Bob Rodgers in The Western Mail
“Wherever there is injustice there will be those who rise up to meet it, among them will be some whose rage is so towering that reason and rationale are blown away in the storm.
Hearts rule heads in Downtown Paradise when radical lawyer, Rachel Bloom finds her professional barriers swept aside as she becomes emotionally entwined with her client, jailed Black Panther leader, James Wilson.
Bloom feels her Jewish heritage gives her some insight into Wilson’s cause and her enthusiasm for the challenge of liberating him causes her to turn a blind eye to the more extreme shades of his ideology. She finds herself becoming more and more involved with her client on a personal level, finally abandoning all pretence of aloofness and giving in to her passions.
Wilson, for his part, never abandons his aims and approaches this strange and artificial relationship with his eyes wide open; initially swept up in Bloom’s enthusiasm but inevitably increasingly frustrated by her stage-managing of his persona and ambitions.
For just two people to maintain this tension and pace in a full-length play is a challenge, but one made easier by some superb writing from Mark Jenkins and outstanding performances from Habib Nasib Nader as James Wilson and Catriona James as Rachel Bloom.
Jenkins’ gift for dialogue and his obvious enthusiasm for his subject has produced a tremendously powerful play in which he has successfully interpreted the fury of the Black Panther movement and the inevitable consequences of attempting to attack the might of United States power head on.
Bloom’s character by contrast displays the unintentional arrogance of privilege in claiming to share even a square foot of common ground with the man she has chosen to represent.
A sparse set where most of the action takes place in Wilson’s prison cell helps to create some insight into his claustrophobic existence, where he can do little but sit and wait as his lawyer flits in and out keeping him posted on what the world beyond the walls is thinking.”