Borders of Paradise


Nicholas De Jongh

THE young are always —and rightly — in vogue. But Shaman Macdonald, whose Borders of Paradise follows quickly upon her triumphant Winter Guest at the Almeida. has nothing urgent to say about the youth of today whose lives she examines. Her new play, most imaginatively conveyed by Lou Stein In an impressively acted. (are well production — after his eight insistently adventurous years running Wafford’s repertory theatre — is an atmospheric doodle drawn across a Devon beach. Miss Macdonald Is a mistress of subtle scene-painting, but her plays are beginning to seem dramatically inert.

Borders of Paradise deals with a day in the life of a group of adolescents. And Emma Donovan’s attractive stage-set, with cliff-face and sand, induces just the right mood: on this hot summer day the friendship of five surfing youths who meet two extrovert girls camping on the cliffs above the beach, begins to dissolve.

The adolescents are facing up to the rites of passage. Class, intellect and sex. Miss Macdonald shows, are drawing them in different directions. Hormones will have their first fling. Testosterone is the coming thing. Yet, despite the joshing. sporty exuberance of these teenage buddies and surfers. there’s no missing the understated, old-fashioned notes of wistful-ness and erotic yearning. And It’ a Mark Letheren’s sardonic David and Tat Whalley's Rob who convey a sense of missing out.

The handsome Letheren, one of those rare, charismatic actors, who is still acting when not speaking, and whose silences spoke volumes, plays the brightest and sharpest of the quintet — the play’s natural outsider. And Miss Macdonald graphically shows how the vulnerabilities of adolescence are concealed behind tough facades.

Rob’s obstinate stammer leaves him almost tongue-tied when the chatting with the girls begin. He can only look on in envy while Tom Wisdom’s John scores the sexual hit of which Rob dreams. But it’s the gayish David. cold-shouldering his buddy John while vainly turning his attentions to the Asian Cot, who suffers the real come-uppance. His friends turn from him to the girls — underwritten roles and thinly characterised by Emily Donovan and Pauline Turner. And David ends up victim of the significant day which this loquacious play anatomises.