The Stratford Festival Production

Paradise Lost

Written by Erin Shields
A theatrical adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Directed by Jackie Maxwell
With Lucy Peacock, Amelia Sargisson, Qasim Khan

Satan is real and she’s on a mission to set the record straight. What really happened in the Garden?

January 14 - February 2, 2020
2 hours 40 minutes
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Extremely funny and stingingly contemporary
Erin Shields […] places this magnetic devil on stage to set the audience’s moral compass spinning.
Witty, sophisticated and lethal…you’ll walk out of the theatre knowing you’ve just seen something triumphant
Paradise Lost is a stellar achievement

ABOUT THE SHOW

SATAN: THERE REALLY HASN’T BEEN A BETTER TIME FOR US TO GET OUR REVENGE.

In the role of a lifetime written especially for her, Canadian stage icon Lucy Peacock is Satan … as we’ve never seen Satan before. Seductive in snakeskin and as slick as a hi-tech guru, she makes a case for her unfair expulsion from heaven in this amusing and highly theatrical adaptation of Milton’s epic poem.

Richly infused with modern references and contemporary vernacular, Erin Shields’ witty script deftly highlights the original poem’s timeless potency and relevance. Centaur’s production features an outstanding Montreal cast of biblical stars that includes an unforgettable Amelia Sargisson as Eve, Michelle Rambharose in polar opposite role of Beelzebub, Marcel Jeanin as God, and Gabriel Lemire as His Son. Extremely physical and fiercely engaging, Paradise Lost is a modern ‘classical’ masterpiece.

Please note that there is a brief instance of nudity in this production.

Cast

Lucy Peacock
Amelia Sargisson
Qasim Khan
Patrick Émmanuel Abellard
Rebecca Gibian
Al Goulem
Marcel Jeannin
Gabriel Lemire
Michelle Rambharose
Julie Tamiko Manning
Jake Wilkinson
Production photos of Stratford play production Paradise Lost.

Erin Shields on Reimagining the Fall

Centaur Stage Interview By Barbara Ford

 

Centaur Stage: What prompted you to adapt Paradise Lost?

Erin Shields: While I was forging my way as a young theatre-maker, I decided to do a part-time degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto. In my third year, I enrolled in a course to study John Milton through an intertextual study of Paradise Lost and scripture. My professor, Dr. Paul Stevens, is the person who really cracked open Paradise Lost for me. He approached the text with respect but also a healthy dose of irreverent humour. His passionate, often provocative lectures, led us on a journey that linked the texts so completely, I often felt as though I was observing a dialogue between the texts, not only noting the Bible’s influence on Paradise Lost, but also the impact Milton had had on a contemporary reading of the Bible. At the completion of that class, I knew my curiosity for both texts had only just begun because it stayed with me, influencing much of my writing. When I finally decided I was ready to tackle the whole poem, I proposed a contemporary, theatrical adaptation to the Stratford Festival.

CS: Was humour an ingredient from the start?

ES: I didn’t originally set out to write a funny play. Part of the humour comes from the fact that biblical stories are just so absurd. The idea that eating a piece of fruit would damn mankind (and particularly womankind!!) for all eternity is outrageous. When the premise of the story and the details surrounding it are played with great seriousness, it’s funny. The effect of that humour is twofold: it makes for a really enjoyable night at the theatre and also creates space for the more serious moments of pain, loss and empathy.

CS: Why a female Satan?

ES: Milton’s male protagonist, Satan, appeared to me as a woman. Satan rebels against God, is punished for her revolt, and devises a masterful plot of revenge. She is active but contemplative; selfish, but desperate for love; relatable but also bulging with incomprehensible evil. In short, Satan is a complicated, irresistible protagonist, and I wanted to explore that journey from a perspective closest to my own. I have not sought to reduce Milton’s expansive story to a contemporary, feminist parable. Rather, I’ve endeavoured to situate the central conflict of the play in a female body to challenge our assumptions about the archetypes we’ve inherited. By exploring Satan through a female lens, I hope to reflect our time, in which women everywhere are speaking truth to power, but also create a complex character with whom every audience member, irrespective of gender, can identify. Plus … it’s so much fun to be bad! Giving that opportunity to an extraordinary actress fills me with wicked delight.

CS: What were the particular challenges of making this work relatable and engaging for contemporary audiences?

ES: Adapting classical texts involves interacting with an author who is no longer alive. I work to understand the author’s intent while also considering my own relationship to the material, examining it through my own Canadian, contemporary, female perspective. It’s a process of negotiation between staying faithful to the author’s intent and asserting my own. For example, Milton transformed the Garden of Eden into an English garden whereas I transformed it into a Canadian wilderness, specifically the woods of Northern Ontario where I spent my childhood summers. The mighty pines, the Canadian Shield, the blueberry bushes, the cry of the loons on the lakes – that is my paradise. Milton’s portrayal of the gender dynamics between Adam and Eve is a reflection of his time. My Adam and Eve are a reflection of mine; I have endeavoured to create an equitable power dynamic between them, which is ultimately undone by the Fall and Eve’s punishment.

CS: What classical story are you planning to approach next?

ES: I’m working on a reimagining of the Trojan War narrative from the perspective of its female players.

 

Creative Team

Director Jackie Maxwell
Designer Judith Bowden
Lighting Designer Bonnie Beecher
Sound Designer & Composer Thomas Ryder Payne
Associate Sound Designer Deanna Haewon Choi
Original Casting Director Beth Russell
Dramaturge Bob White
Fight Director John Stead
Movement Director Valerie Moore
Stage Manager Luciana Burcheri
Assistant Stage Manager Danielle Skene
Assistant Director Mahalia Golnosh Tahririha
Apprentice Stage Manager Elizabeth Richardson

Production

Enrich your Experience

Pre-show Convo

January 16, 2020

Jackie Maxwell, Valerie Moore and Erin Shields will join Eda Holmes for the Paradise Lost Pre-Show Convo. This is a rare opportunity to learn about the ever expanding techniques that create mood, amplify emotions, and add depth to a play and its characters. Meet the set, costume, lighting, and sound designers who give the play […]

Saturday Salon

January 18, 2020

Theatre is about exchange, apropos for a theatre born in the country’s first Stock Exchange. On select Saturday afternoons, join Centaur Artistic and Executive Director, Eda Holmes, and her special guests as they break through the fourth wall to connect theatre lovers with theatre makers. Free and held in the main floor gallery following the […]

Sunday Chat-up

January 19, 2020

Join Lucinda Chodan, Editor in Chief of Montreal Gazette as she speaks with Dr Ildikó Glaser-Hille about Satan as a social actor throughout History, as well as in modern society. Find out what the different depictions of the Devil can actually reveal about the people who created this powerful symbol.

Talk-Back

January 23, 2020

Following the performance, you are invited to stay for informal Q&A sessions with the artists. Held in the theatre after select Thursday evening or Sunday matinée presentations. • Thursday January 23 • Sunday January 26