As a huge animation and puppetry fan, I can’t say enough good things about The Paper Cinema’s latest show based on Homer’s The Odyssey. Founded in 2004 by Nicholas Rawling, Imogen Charleston and Christopher Reed, The Paper Cinema utilizes paper cutout puppets and wonderful visual tricks of perspective in front of a camera to create animation in real time for the audience. Odysseus is on the hunt; one puppeteer moves the Odysseus puppet in a way that he is both running and panting, as the second puppeteer whirls trees across the camera behind Odysseus creating the sense of movement and speed. The effect is both engrossing and at times unbelievable. Buildings are created through a slow zoom as the puppeteers manipulate pillars and archways in an uncanny manner, and the sea as Odysseus drifts by on a raft is full of movement and energy. It truly must be seen to be believed (watch the trailer below).
The creators adapted the many trials of Odysseus, Telemachus, and Penelope with clear reverence for the source material, but also with a sense of play and anachronistic flair. While the story and visuals mostly reflect those of Ancient Greece, Telemachus takes a soul-searching journey on his motorcycle, while Penelope’s suitors are all wolves in immaculate modern day suits getting drunk on champagne. The monsters in this production have real weight, and the puppeteers do a great job creating a sense of danger. Odysseus has to deal with the despondent giantess Calypso, the terrifying jagged cyclops, and even the great god Neptune himself. There are plenty of tender moments as well, such as in a flashback of Odysseus and Penelope sharing an embrace before he leaves for the Trojan war, to their fated reunion a decade later. The battle against the suitors towards the end of the show was poetry in motion.
The immersion I felt while watching the show could not have been achieved without its immaculate music, composed by Christopher Reed, Ed Dowie, Quinta and Matthew Brown (you can listen to and purchase the soundtrack on bandcamp here). The combination of piano, violin, guitar, electronic keyboard and clever use of the saw, lend themselves perfectly to the visuals appearing on screen. From the cheerful ‘Rosy-Fingered Dawn,’ to the sleazy track ‘The Suitors’ reflecting the mooching wolfish layabouts sniffing at Penelope’s heels, the soundtrack is evocative of the deep emotions of a husband and wife separated by a decade, and the series of travails hampering their reunion. Foley work is used to great effect for sounds such as the waves, and the low rumble of a sleeping cyclops.
This is a show not to be missed. It is currently touring across the UK and Germany.