The sound of the sea lapping at the sides of Odysseus' boat is our first step into the world of Homer's Odyssey, as imagined by delicate weavers of visual tales The Paper Cinema. The great epic rumbles into life with one foreboding note of violin. Our performers, all five of them, sit somewhat pell-mell in the foreground of the stage, with an array of camera equipment, scenery, cardboard characters and instruments arranged around them.
The story would have been impossible to portray in its entirety while still granting us an opportunity to revel in the impressive feats of animation coming to life before our eyes. Black ink drawings are scrawled with fountain pen as the credits fade into view, and we are introduced to our characters. A personal favourite is the portrayal of Penelope's suitors as sinister wolves with great snarling snouts, whose appearance is accompanied by a burst of sinister waltz and jazzy melodica.
The many cameras create for us a black and white richly penned world where everything from a boar hunt to the wrath of Poseidon is filmed to the heights of cinematic stylistic effect by two perfectly choreographed puppeteers; they almost seem to be conjuring spirits with their swooping and intricate motions. This is given the strength of a blockbuster with a contemporary classical score by three musicians who convey depth of feeling worthy of an entire orchestra.
Telemachus, Odysseus' son, is also given an excellent modern twist with contemporary technology weaved into the mix, which still leaves the most memorable parts of Homer's masterpiece untouched, such as Cyclops' island and the wrath of Poseidon. Athena's owl is an image frequently returned to as a silent indication of the tale unfolding, which is otherwise entirely free from narration or dialogue.
The most notable aspects of the Paper Cinema is its great movement and fluidity, a liveliness not easy to bring to cardboard cutouts. The performers are a crucial point of interest in the show and altogether hugely talented group. This is well and truly epic.