Performance has always played a role in the story of Odysseus. The tale of Homer’s wandering hero was recited long before it was recorded on paper and the telling has never stopped. The Paper Cinema introduces its own special brand of theatricality by producing a live animation in the form of a film, with pen and ink wash drawings and cut-out paper puppets projected on to a screen.
Apart from an onomatopoeic ‘splash’, words are stubbornly excluded from this retelling, and this focuses our attention all the more on the artistry of both Nic Beard’s wonderful drawings and Ed Dowie’s fantastic accompanying music.
Images and sounds play on a sense of wit and invention that delights, particularly as the puppeteers and musicians sit in front of the screen so that we can watch them making it all happen. It’s fascinating and inculcates a growing sense of respect for their controlled teamwork.
With a seemingly lo-fi approach, one appreciates their care, attention and humour all the more: the overlapping images are perfect for conveying the memories of the characters, and there’s a playful sense of scale and a good few visual jokes (the Cyclops’ dad-and-trident tattoo is a lovely touch).
This journey is hypnotic and heart-warming. It is possible to see a drawback to its charms – it turns The Odyssey into something of a fairy tale. But you’d have to be a real purist to object. The Paper Cinema has such skill in tapping into the magical thrill behind all good puppetry that seeing the strings doesn’t break, but extends, the spell.
Until 25 February 2012
Photo by Perrine Desproges
Written 7 February 2012 for The London Magazine