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Thomas Bloor

Monday, August 27, 2012



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.


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