Petrified Paradise at the Arches

Petrified Paradise is a powerful and innovative new play which takes the audience on a journey through the maze of the UK's Asylum & Immigration Service. Taken backstage to an area few people see, doors are closed in your face, you are split from your friends with no explanation offered. One minute you're being beckoned onwards, the next you're held in a featureless corridor listening to arcane regulations and corporate Newspeak. There's no conventional dialogue, but monologues that echo and resonate across each other. The collaging of disparate stories and voices produces a powerful and coherent narrative. Those stories are taken from interviews and flawlessly relayed by the young cast, switching characters to leave you disorientated but not confused. Here, there's no chance to change the channel, no mediation between you and the "others" of popular hysteria. As the corridor gets narrower and the turns tighter, people whose stories you might prefer to shut out (or at least not hear right at this moment, it's not a good time for me) come within touching distance and make eye contact. Communicating with you as a fellow human and eliminating the barriers we want to erect. After hearing so many human stories you are placed in a position where your silence has to end and your complicity be acknowledged. In an interview room, facing a wall of mirrors, you are told "You have to ask me questions now". What does freedom mean to you personally? The freedom to avert your eyes from human suffering? By taking the audience on the journey, putting them in the place of the "other" and breaking down the comfortable boundary between audience and performer, this play takes the babble of conflicting voices and has more to say about the issue than the last six months of news coverage. Petrified Paradise runs at the Arches, Glasgow, till 30th September but has sold out. It will tour community centres in October.