Pre-Paradise Sorry Now is quite unlike any performance I’ve ever seen before; the best description I can offer is an amalgamation of Beckett, Donnie Darko and The Silence of the Lamb cast on the absurdist stage. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s highly controversial piece invites its audience to view the world through the eyes of Ian Brady: one half of the infamous Moors Murderers who molested and murdered an estimated six children, burying their bodies in the desolate Yorkshire Moors. Locating the action in the dark recesses of Ian’s mind, his depraved fantasy-land becomes the symbolical epicentre of mankind’s propensity toward evil. Considering its taboo subject, it is easy to understand why the play has been banned until recent years. In a bold innovation Fassbinder decentralises Myra and Ian who sit at opposite ends of the stage, silent for much of the action as three grotesque figures act out contre scenes: images of vice and squalor which represent the wasteland of Ian’s psyche: they all demonstrate what Fassbinder deemed the “factoid underpinnings of everyday life”. These fictions of Brady’s malevolent imagination all depict some form of violent intimidation, powerfully evoking the terror and helplessness of Brady’s child victims. As harrowing as these scenes may be, they fail to excite the same level of discomfort as the taciturn Brady who glares blankly into the audience. The penetrating gaze of Rizwan Ahmed, who plays Ian, was enough to convince me that I was in the presence of pure evil, as I mentally scanned the room for the nearest exits just in case I happened to be next on his hit list. Ahmed’s brilliantly understated performance makes Hannibal Lecter look like the kind of guy you would be proud to take home to mother. It goes without saying that play with a subject matter as distressing as this is will contain unsettling scenes, and yet one of the most disconcerting touches is, strangely enough, provided by costume rather than content. As they sit amidst the grotesque violence, Brady and Hindley appear pristine, in a state of hyper-naturalism, their presence contrasts dramatically with the monochromatic contre scenes. We are forced to confront the Hindleys not simply as an evil abstraction, but as real people, wearing the mask of normality with a disquieting nonchalance. So what’s the final verdict on Pre-Paradise Sorry Now? Entering the consciousness of one of the country’s most notorious and feared serial killers is not a comfortable experience and yet makes unforgettable viewing. would advise anybody with fascination for nihilism and the darker side to see this play. One word of advice: whatever you do, try not to catch Ahmed’s disquieting gaze.
ARCHIVE: 3rd Week TT 2003

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