10 February 2015

The Paper Cinema's Odyssey at Battersea Arts Centre was magical

I have been fed a steady drip of Greek theatre in recent years and each interpretation has had its own flavour of quirkiness. The Paper Cinema's version of the Odyssey was as quirky and inventive as they come.

I went to see it at the Battersea Arts Centre and, as with Orpheus the previous year, the seating was arranged with cabaret seats at the front with normal tiered seating behind. This time I went for a cabaret seat and the cabaret package of food and drink that went with it.

But first I had to get there. I arranged to work in London that day and took the Northern Line down from Kings Cross to Clapham North which gave me a nice walk to BAC and the justification for a beer. With two shows on that night the bar was busy and the staff were struggling to cope. It was a long wait to get served (being English we had formed a queue but they insisted that we changed this to a free-for-all along the bar).

In addition to my beer I also ordered my food and drink for the show and took great care to use the word "vegetarian" as much as possible. It did not work and I got the standard meat and fish version of the meal anyway and by that time it was too late and the bar was too busy to try and do anything about it, so I have the best of a bad job.

I am not sure what I expected from The Paper Cinema but if I had thought about it then I could probably have worked it out from the name.

The main technique used to tell the story was to move paper cutouts in front of a background drawing and this was projected onto the large screen on the stage.

This picture, taken after the show, shows the performance area in the bottom-left corner and the final image on the screen.

The technique was similar to that used by TV animations like Captain Pugwash but with a lot more sophistication.

There were no spoken words and the few projected on to the screen were chapter headings and character introductions. Music took the place of words and there was a small band playing along to the action, much as in the silent movie days (so I am told!). There were also sound and lighting effects, for the storms etc.

These were all simple components but they meshed together neatly to make a compelling storytelling environment.

The paper figures were the star of the show and there were two people keeping everything moving along at a brisk pace. Seated as I was near them, it was fascinating to see them at work constantly changing and moving the paper cutouts to produce a visually stunning and very attractive show.

I liked the story too, especially as it had an unexpected happy ending - my knowledge of Greek legends is not that great and most of the ones that I know are tragedies of the greatest order.

The Paper Cinema's Odyssey was very effective entertainment and it was impossible not be captivated by the storytelling. I left very happy.

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