Paradigm Rhymes – Beyond the Dome (by Mellow Baku, Inside Out Festival, Curve Theatre, 21 Oct 2017)

reviewed by Sally Jack

Curve Theatre’s Inside Out Festival celebrates “leading and emerging East Midlands artists”, showcasing writers, theatre makers and artists from around the region, and is now in its fourth year.

Between 18 and 28 October, various spaces in the theatre – from its 250+ seater Studio to ad hoc stages in the foyer space – feature free live music, spoken word readings and installations, together with programmed performances at around £10 a ticket.

Paradigm Rhymes – Beyond the Dome is set in the future, a dystopian world (the Dome) where the minds of young people are under state control (or at least by DJs – digital janitors). A creative act is a crime, the most heinous being musical improvisation – jazz.

Beyond the Dome is written by Mellow Baku, herself an enchanting performer who relishes the sounds and tones of language, often set to music. The inhabitants of her dystopian world chant this mantra:

Work harder, get tokens
buy stuff, enjoy life

Despite the chilling premise (unless you’re no big fan of jazz), there is a soothing, gentle feel to this piece. Told through projected comic book digital imagery (Natasha DuBarry-Gurr), spoken word (narrated by Sophia Thakur), saxophone (Marcus Joseph, also creator and musical director) and a three-piece band of drums, bass and guitar (Jamie Sykes, Mark Trounson and Joe Egan respectively), the audience is presented with a choice of two options at several points during the show. Beyond the Dome is itself about choices, therefore this is a nice device to determine the direction of the story. However, the choices seem loaded in favour of the much more positive sounding outcome and it wasn’t always clear that the choice made much difference to the narrative – I guess you’d have to hear the alternative but for me, these parts didn’t gel.

In our story, Kaia and her family show determination and resolve to escape beyond the repressive confines of the Dome and creative freedom – a satisfying yet for me rather underwhelming story. What happened if the other choices were made? On this occasion, I must accept the will of a democratic vote and never know.

Another small point: the narrator often read script-in-hand. Whether this is because of the choice aspect of the show or because this is another show in development I can’t be clear, but it does imply ‘work in progress’ (which I didn’t see in the ‘blurb’).

An interesting concept, pleasing if you like jazz and good use of multi media. Marketing states it is aimed at 10 to14 year-olds; I’m not sure about that – our audience covered a wide age spectrum and I think this has wider appeal, particularly with the musical element.

Overall, an enjoyable if understated experience, and some tightening up of the storytelling and plot would help accentuate the moments of tension.