The Paper Cinema

The Paper Cinema at Toynbee Studios was just one of the events during this years East London Festival And it was probably the best £5 I’ve spent so far this year.

Setting: in a fully seated auditorium, we wait with an air of excitement. Its immediately clear this isn't going to be a regular performance/silver screen projection. At the front of the stage a man and woman (Illustrator Nic Rawlings and assistant) sit either side of a video camera on a tripod which is pointing at some sort of puppet set. The auditorium lights go down and a pianist (Roy Eno) at the left rear of the stage begins to play with the duo bringing a paper puppet set to life. The paper puppet show is now being projected onto the main screen. By jeeves...a Paper Cinema! Although the cinema screen becomes the main point of interest for the audience, the pair are cleverly positioned at the front of the stage, never leaving your peripheral vision, which serves as a reminder throughout that this is a 'live performance'.

What unfolds over the next 20 mins (approx) is a beautiful and other-worldly performance of part puppetry, part animation as the duo pass many different paper puppets and scenery slowly, and with great dexterity, in front of the camera to create a thoughtful, trippy journey. At times the puppeteers’ hands appear on screen but this only adds to the DIY style accompanying the sketched illustration style (a la Quentin Blake) and roughly cut out cardboard scenery. Some pieces are coloured other parts just black and white.

The collaborative effort of this performance is outstanding. The harmonious movements of puppets and scenery are executed with such precision seemingly simulating a cinematic feel with swooping camera movements, and noir-ish scenery reminiscent of the films of David Lynch or Tim Burton yet somehow managing to remain as cute and fun as the tales of Roald Dahl with talking snails and other weird and wonderful characters. All the time the visual scene is moved along by Roy Eno's musical accompaniment and he seamlessly switches between instruments which he plays single-handedly.

The Paper Cinema takes us on a hallucinogenic journey of the city at night and its dreaming inhabitants. It’s hard to summarise exactly what happens as it is all the stuff of fantasies and therefore open to tremendous speculation and interpretation.

I enjoyed it so much i went back for a repeat viewing and got even more pleasure from it than before noticing a number of quirky intricacies in the illustrations that I hadn’t noticed first time round. Extraordinary stuff.

The paper cinema will be back in London in the summer. Keep an eye out here:

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