Taiwan Season: The Paper Play

This charming double bill from Puppets Being Theatre uses poise and precision to bring to life ingenious paper creations. Running as part of Edinburgh Fringe’s Taiwan season, The Paper Play is almost entirely nonverbal, making it accessible for children of all ages and languages.

The children amongst us are enthused - not wide-eyed and enchanted, but actually giddy with excitement, like they are watching a friend’s party trick or a parent pretending to be a monster and chasing them around the house.

Like the short animations that open many Pixar films, The Paper Play begins with ‘The Park’, a short, ten-minute play about an old man whose isolation is overcome through the catalyst of a stray beach-ball. Unlike the main feature, ‘The Park’ uses three-dimensional and fully textured puppets – but like the main feature, it is choreographed exquisitely. The scene’s physics are realised beautifully: the beach ball’s weight and drift make it a compelling and convincing presence despite the scene’s simplicity and slow pace.

‘The Park’ manages to craft a real sense of jeopardy and of change in its short running time and simple trajectory. It serves as an ideal prelude to ‘The Paper Play' proper, whose style is even more minimalist. There are few fully three-dimensional puppets here, although a small number appear later on. Initially, the puppets are crafted in front of us, often using only single pieces of paper.

This is not conventional origami: to fold or crease the paper is very rare. Instead, the show’s style is predicated on curves, elegant lines and the fewest possible number of transformations. It is the performers’ acting and the puppeteers’ fidelity to, and belief in, each movement that sustains the illusion and wards off the audience's credulity.

The children amongst us are enthused - not wide-eyed and enchanted, but actually giddy with excitement, like they are watching a friend’s party trick or a parent pretending to be a monster and chasing them around the house. This show trusts their intelligence, relying on them to decipher sometimes quite abstract shapes and to the appreciate both what is happening and how it is being made.

Whilst the main feature has some narrative progression, the threat at the piece’s conclusion seems to come out of nowhere. This adds to a lingering sense in the last fifteen minutes that the piece never quite reaches a climax. It doesn’t feel as fully rounded, narratively, as ‘The Park’ did before it. Consequentially, it feels more like a collection of vignettes.

Through its simple conceit, The Paper Play shows its young audience something of the power and fun of collective imagining. Perhaps best of all, next time they insist on playing with the packaging rather than the Christmas presents, they might do something extremely creative with it themselves.

Reviews by Tom Moyser

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The Blurb

A double bill for younger audiences and their families, exploring the incredible storytelling power of ordinary paper. The Park and The Paper Play take audiences on an adventure filled with wonder and laughter, with magic moments of playfulness and discovery. The change happens before your very eyes, don't blink or you will miss it! Do try this at home! Puppet Beings Theatre are internationally acclaimed for their inventive and charming object theatre.

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