The Paper Cinema Club @ The Wardrobe Theatre ★★★★


By Dulcie Godfrey, Second Year English

An enthralling composition of puppets, cinema and music, The Paper Cinema's new collaborative stint at The Wardrobe Theatre is an experience not to be missed. Part puppet show and part cinema show, The Paper Cinema Club is a mixture of live animation and live music.

The sloped seating in the intimate space of The Wardrobe Theatre looked on to a jumble of seemingly incongruous items accumulated in the middle. Cameras, lights, tangled wires, musical instruments and mixers; but most notably, the whole space was littered with black and white drawings that become the puppets in this ethereal show.

The Paper Cinema Club / Photo courtesy of The Wardrobe Theatre and Paper Cinema 

The relaxed space contributed to the informal atmosphere, creators chatting to audience and arranging equipment as people filed in. A quick preamble from illustrator and creative director Nicholas Rawling introduced the creators, a collection of puppeteers and musicians. Rawling talked of the 16 years of Paper Cinema's history, and how they were using this space and returning slot to go back to its roots and find new inspiration in a collaborative way. Here he invited anyone with an instrument or a puppet to the front to share their own art.

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Needless to say, I was feeling a mixture of trepidation and excitement. I understood the basic concept of Paper Cinema, but the added audience participation added a layer of tension. Only in a room like this would there be not one, but two musical saws.

The Paper Cinema Club / Photo courtesy of The Wardrobe Theatre and Paper Cinema 

Firstly, we saw an old piece from the company entitled Night Flyer. If the setting created previously was informal, the minute the music started and the lights went down the audience are transported. The simple equipment of a camera, a desk lamp and a projector show the incredibly intricate black and white designs as they are blown up on the big projector screen. The amazingly detailed and highly stylised drawings are expertly handled by the puppeteers, woven in and out to narrate a mysterious and hypnotic narrative. The highly skilled musicians are able to conflate long musical phrases from guitars and violins with recorded sounds, seamlessly moving from the pace and tension of a train speeding through the night to figures flying through the air surrounded by clouds and stars. The intricacy and complexity of this non-verbal art is impossible to fully convey through words, but when the music stopped, I felt reeled back into reality.

The Paper Cinema Club / The Wardrobe Theatre 

Rawling claims that some of their content, like Night Flyer for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a clear narrative, making the collaborative process following successful. (It should be noted that some of their content does have narrative, for example their highly successful version of Macbeth).  But the aims of the Paper Cinema 'Club' are more along the lines of Night Flyer, playing with sound and visuals to create something new. Here two audience members bravely took the chair, puppets in hand. A second camera added extra layers of image to the show, and the improvisation lasted about 10 minutes. The final product had elements of comedy and allowed the showcasing of even more of Rawling's incredible designs as well as those provided by the audience and additionally the extra musical talent. The improvised nature allowed for moments of tension and moments of harmony between music and image, a highly engaging and visually stimulating result.

The endeavour is in its early days, causing moments of hesitancy. However, I am greatly intrigued to see what comes out of the returning effort. A Q&A after showed a group of people committed to their beautiful art, and I can't wait to see what else is to come.


Featured Image: The Wardrobe Theatre and Paper Cinema

Have you ever seen an animated show?