Ben Duke, no doubt, is a funny man. His choreographed retelling of John Milton’s famous poem ‘Paradise Lost’ – which he has supposedly never opened, as the subtitle suggests – is a hilarious tour de force, marrying stand up comedy awkwardness and charm with precise and expressive movement.
In continuous conversation with the audience, he reenacts and impersonates God, Lucifer, Adam, Eve, the snake and armies of angels, while chickpeas (‘boulders’) rain from the ceiling (‘sky’) or he emerges in a morphsuit (‘naked’) from a fog machine’s exhaustions (‘heavenly clouds’).
In ‘Paradise Lost’, Duke simultaneously mocks and utilizes contemporary dance vocabulary and his own skill as a performer – for example, as he moves in spasms and twitches, making slurping and burping sounds as he goes (as ‘God’) through the creation process of Adam. Interlacing the epic tale with personal anecdotes of marriage and fatherhood makes both struggles, on the grand and the smaller scale, touching and engaging to the viewers.
It is quite unusual how he exhibits and deals with ‘mistakes’ on stage – for example, when he talks viewers through what the dance sequence would look like instead of actually doing it, since he (supposedly) missed his cue. It made us wonder – how much of that was improvised, how much of those ‘mistakes’ were fabricated and planned?
And in general, how did he choreograph this piece, how did he make the words connect with the movement? What came first, the way of moving or the way of telling?
Luckily, we might be able to ask him about some of that, since he will be leading a session with us at Next Choreography this week!
Watch the trailer for ‘Paradise Lost’ here: