We round up the reviews for Kae Tempest’s play reimagining a Greek legend now playing at the National Theatre.

© Helen Murray

WhatsOnStage: **** “Ian Rickson’s staging, continuing the Olivier’s in-the-round configuration, could be called static, but then Tempest’s text is so lean and dynamic that it barely matters. And the action when it comes happens in intense bursts, whether it’s the convulsions of Philoctetes, clutching his gangrenous leg, or the climactic firing of his legendary bow.”

Time Out: “Tempest and Rickson’s oft-whimsical reimagining of it tends to add to the strangeness rather than subtract from it. But if it didn’t totally click for me, two hours of exile with these oddballs is never anything less than interesting.”

Londonist: ***** “Director Ian Rickson keeps the pace taut and flowing, with rarely a dull moment. He returns next year for another run of the much-lauded Jerusalem, another play built around an earthy mythic hero with unenviable choices. Paradise may not be as acclaimed as Jerusalem but this brave, energetic and inspirational production certainly deserves similar plaudits.”

The Times: **** “When Lesley Sharp’s ancient warrior speaks, you can’t choose but listen. Always unpredictable, she has the part of a lifetimein the poet Kae Tempest’s scalding new version of Greek tragedy.”

The Arts Desk: **** “Poet Kae Tempest’s lyrical new adaptation for the National Theatre focuses on the chorus, spinning out the original’s scope to examine the effects of conflict on women – and showing off all their Mercury-nominated wit and wordplay in the process.”

Culture Whisper: **** “Through an emotive script that marries an ancient Greek myth with contemporary concerns, Tempest presents a story of deceit, persuasion, pride and loyalty that is age-old yet relevant to today’s society.”

There Ought to Be Clowns: “Hille’s uncompromising sharpness is perfect as Odysseus and Obianyo is excellent as the more equivocal but no less committed Neoptolemus. But it is Sharp who sears herself onto our retinas with an extraordinary performance full of memorable physicality and a mesmeric turn of phrase. Backed by a multilayered chorus full of its own talents, this Paradise is certainly not lost.”

A Younger Theatre: **** “Lesley Sharp is an outstanding actor, and her Philoctetes is no different. Tempest’s writing accompanied by Sharp’s physicality and vocal performance bring distinct humour to this tragedy. Tragedy it is not; in fact, it is more akin to one of Shakespeare’s problem plays. I am not expecting to laugh so much at a piece that originated 2,500 years ago and Sharp’s brilliant delivery brings this updated version to life.”

Exeunt Magazine: “The magnetic Lesley Sharp gives a compelling and compulsive performance as Philoctetes. She carries her wound close, mistrustful and prickly but also deeply vulnerable, howling with sobs when Neoptolemus tells her that his father Achilles is dead.”

Gay Times: **** “There’s a lot to like about Paradise. An update of a Greek myth may not initially sound like everyone’s idea of a fun night out, but it’s surprisingly entertaining, thanks to Kae Tempest’s razor-sharp writing and some excellent performances. This is a truly absorbing piece of theatre – one we’d gladly recommend.”

iNews: ***** “Ian Rickson’s production is both epic and intimate – potently ritualistic, yet as gripping as a thriller, and rippled with raucous dark humour. And the all-women cast are mesmeric, led by a phenomenal Sharp.”

Broadway World: *** “Emerging, somewhat thankfully, into the snap of early Autumn chill, one reflected that this kind of script, and Ian Rickson‘s production of it (especially in its scale), could probably only be staged at the NT.”

Theatre Vibe.co.uk: ” I was very impressed by Gloria Obianyo’s Neoptolemus.  Her super stage presence and basic honesty saw us root for her to succeed.  Lesley Sharp stays in character but the gender switch often doesn’t allow enough room for other acting nuance.”

The Stage: *** “Ambitious reworking of a play by Sophocles that is as remarkable as it is frustrating.”

Evening Standard: **** “Paradise feels particularly resonant for the current moment even though it was programmed before the pandemic. It’s about the dangers of pride, the damage of isolation and the need to overcome our pessimism and hold on to hope. Most of all, it’s a tribute to storytelling that warns against mythmaking.”

Paradise continues to play at the National Theatre until the 11th September.