The Paper Cinema’s Macbeth, Battersea Arts Centre – Review


Inspired by the adaptations of Welles and Polanski, Paper Cinema’s Macbeth is as much a love letter to ‘The Scottish Play’ as Citizen Kane is to the language of cinema itself. Presented in an abridged version, a team of five put on the show – three to handle the animation, and two musicians to provide the score and sound effects.

DpUAJBuW4AARSE9Eschewing actual dialogue, the 75 minute production relies on visuals, music and sounds to convey the atmosphere and drive the narrative. The illustrated ‘puppets’ themselves are two-dimensional, but even with such a ‘basic’ tool, much is accomplished and a lot of thought has been made with the choices made.

I found myself marvelling at what was practised in terms of not only the ‘technical’ aspects of the show – where the illusion of ‘depth of field’ was created through multiple ‘layers’ – but also the leap of imagination where images instantly conveyed well-known speeches. There is a moment where the pupil of Macbeth’s eye morphs into the hilt of a dagger, which I thought was ingenious, prefacing his famous speech later on.

On several occasions there were audible gasps at the surprising, yet innovative ways to depict familar scenes. Also, while it may seem strange to say, subtle moments of humour are inserted, such as mentioning the ‘spear carriers’ – often the most overlooked personae in Shakespeare productions.


It cannot be overstated how important the live music and sounds are to immersing the audience to the world of Macbeth, and I thoroughly enjoyed how I was ‘able to switch off’ my analytical frame of mind (which I often have when reviewing) and enjoy the moment, often pleasantly surprised from one moment to the next.

There is, however, the $64,000 question: if you didn’t know anything about Macbeth, would you have been able to understand everything that was going on? Playing ‘Devil’s advocate’ – possibly not. But then again, most mainstream productions on stage and films choose to accentuate aspects of Shakespeare’s plays at the ‘detriment’ of others.


If I thought about the psychological nuances that weren’t included or the short amount of time that certain characters had, then yes – much more could have been added to the show. But on its own terms – as an exercise in telling The Scottish Play non-verbally – The Paper Cinema’s Macbeth is thoroughly entertaining and would be appreciated by all. Certainly the most enjoyable Shakespeare production I’ve seen in a long time.

© Michael Davis 2018

Four-and-a-half stars

Devisors and puppeteers: Nicholas Rawling, Irena Stratieva, Teele Uustani, Catherine Rock and Imogen Charleston
Composers and musicians: Christopher Reed and Francesca Simmons
Co-composer: Quinta
Sound engineer: Thomas Walsey
Lighting designer: Peter Harrison

The Paper Cinema’s Macbeth runs at Battersea Arts Centre until 27th October.
7:30pm (3pm mat 20 & 27 Oct)
Price: £18, £15, £12.50 concs

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