Review | Paragon Dreams, Gielgud Theatre ⋆⋆⋆

As part of the 2019 RADA Festival, Hester Ullyart performs in her one-woman show, Paragon Dreams, following its run at the Hull Truck Theatre earlier this year. This play is a fast-paced thriller which constantly jolts and surprises. Our story takes place in modern day Hull, miles away from RADA’s intimate Gielgud Theatre in London. When we first meet our central character Hannah, she is running from the problems of her present, but in doing so finds herself confronting a myriad of issues from her past.

One person shows often showcase theatre at its most intimate, there’s just the audience and the performer and nowhere to hide. Hester is an intensely committed performer and with chameleon like versatility, she is able to assume the roles of the wide-ranging characters in the play, from the Glaswegian laundrette owner to a sultry cabaret performer. With hardly any props and set pieces, she single-handedly creates the equivalent of a strong ensemble cast and it’s riveting to see.

In the way that the narrative unfolds, it has the feel of a live reading of a book being performed. The dialogue is often poetic and lyrical and the locations which make up Hull’s landscape are described in vivid detail so that you can feel and smell where we’re meant to be. Its style is similar to the novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where only enough information is carefully revealed at particular times and the full force of this is felt as the show progresses. Thanks to Director, Mark Babych, the play is also impressively slick. If you turn your attention away for a second, you may find yourself slightly out of step.

Paragon Dreams has all the elements that should make a good thriller; it’s action packed and has exciting twists. Although each character has depth and is convincingly portrayed, I felt a notable disconnect as an audience member between the characters wrapped up in the drama. It’s human nature to feel empathy for those who suffer injustice and in this play we are not spared characters who should be deserving of our empathy. And yet, I felt somewhat removed from their plight.

Paragon Dreams is a star turn for the RADA graduate, Hester, as she showcases her impressive range as a performer and playwright. Although it didn’t accumulatively pack the punch that I was expecting it to, it’s unlike any one-woman performance that I’ve seen before.

Creative Team: Writer and performer – Hester Ullyart, Director – Mark Babych, Sound Designer – Mathew Clowes, Music composer – Joe Roper

Photo Credit: Sam Taylor Photography

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