PAPER CINEMA - THE ODYSSEY
A stage. Some pine
benches, lap tops and electrical equipment. A collection of musical
instruments. Over the P.A. there is the sound of waves, lapping. Five
people - they have the air of art technicians about them - make their
way to their places on the stage. It is August the 12th
2012 at the Criterion Theatre in London, and this is Paper Cinema
presenting their adaptation of The Odyssey. The story is told without
words. Hand-inked cut-out figures and sets, dawn with the graphic
sensibility of a Herge, are skilfully passed before the lenses of two
video cameras and projected onto a big screen behind the puppeteers
and the musicians who provide a live soundtrack. They all sit in
full-view of the audience.
We gaze at the
screen, following the story. We also watch the puppeteers, Imogen
Charleston and artistic director Nic Rawling, as they select the
correct cut-outs, move them in and out of the camera’s field of
view, or deftly flick them across the lens to create a startlingly
effective sensation of movement. The overall result combines the
intimacy and directness of having a loved-one tell you a story with a
robust sense of the cinematic and the epic.
The opening boar
hunt is wonderfully realised, the depiction of Odysseus’ domestic
idyll is moving in its simplicity, his son’s restless youth subtly
portrays the passing of the years, and so it continues. Each new set
piece moves the story on, delighting viewer with visual and also
musical inventiveness, for the live sounds from composer Chris Reed,
accompanied by Ed Dowie and Quinta, provides an essential part of
what makes Shadow Cinema so emotionally and atmospherically
satisfying. Between them, the three musicians play an impressive
array of instruments, including guitar, violin, drums, keyboards,
melodica and, at one memorable point, a bowed saw. I find it hard to
resist a bowed saw.
Paper Cinema offer a
perfect blending of simplicity and finesse, of the intimate and the
technically sophisticated, creating a spellbinding live performance.
Their name neatly describes the sum of their parts. Go see them if
you get the chance.