The Paper Cinema kicked off the tenth Japanese Festival at Moshi Moshi last Friday. Now in it’s 10th year, the festival is a hodge-podge of music, art, tasting sessions and quirky performances, rather like this one.
The Paper Cinema is housed in a makeshift tent attached to the side of the restaurant, called Homu which has it’s own dedicated bar, stage and video screen.
On entering Homu, my initial thought was ‘where am I going to sit?’ The event’s tickets had been split into two types – one for the performance and one for the performance and meal. Those with the latter were sat on round tables with an easy view of the screen, whilst the rest of us were squeezed along the side or at the back, with not the greatest view.
This is frustrating because the Paper Cinema is such a nuanced, subtle and intricate piece of theatre that you want to be utterly absorbed in it. Having to crane your neck or keep shuffling around to get the best view isn’t ideal.
Moan aside, the performance was completely engrossing. Tonight’s show is a take on Homer’s The Odyssey. It’s not an easy play to put on even in more traditional contexts but Paper Cinema do it effortlessly.
The company consists of a group of puppeteers, designers and musicians, who are all onstage throughout the production. A video camera films the intricate movements and carefully staged perspective, which is then projected on to the screen at the back of the room.
It’s amazing that little drawings, carefully crafted lighting and a dramatic score can evoke such a dream-like and atmospheric performance. Several moments are surreal, especially when the characters descend into the Greek underworld Hades. The end sequence features Telemachus who appears to be held captive in a fish eye and the show ends in a blur of orange and black.
The narrative can sometimes feel a little confusing, but that’s not really the point. The appeal of Paper Cinema is the sheer talent and inventiveness of the team that deliver something completely unique to the world of puppetry.
Words: Kate Franklin
Photos: Simon Brice