Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Two entertaining short plays in two different puppetry styles. The first is a delightful story with exquisite puppets. The second demonstrates how simple white paper can be formed into creatures very effectively.
The Paper Play is a double bill of two puppet performances by the same company. The first piece, The Park is a delightful non-verbal ten minute puppet play about a man in the park and a little boy with a ball. The approximately 1.5 metre tall puppets are gorgeous, with beautifully sculpted heads and wear colourful clothing made of different textured fabrics. Two puppeteers wearing all black (to minimize their presence in full sight of the audience) skilfully manipulate the puppets from behind using a modified Bunraku style – which usually uses three puppeteers. Here, one puppeteer works the head and right arm while another moves the feet. The story is charming and the puppetry is emotive and very entertaining – it held the attention of the youngest audience member of one year as well as all the adults – and left us hungry for more puppetry in this style!
Next, The Paper Play of approximately thirty minutes demonstrates many ways to use plain white paper and how to bring the shapes to life, very effectively. The five puppeteers play close to the audience with a lot of energy, led by Ying-Lung, Chen as the main narrator. The puppeteers fold and hold strips, triangles and rectangles in different ways to create different animals while playful music underscores this section. There’s also a family of several exquisite birds – already formed and rather more complex than the simple pieces of paper – and are brought to life beautifully by the puppeteers.
This is clever visual storytelling, sensitive, witty and very creative. It is possible to go home and play with white paper to create one’s own beings using some of their techniques! The story even has conflict, which takes the narrative deeper and incorporates different effects. Some of the puppeteers make sounds and one in particular is always the youngest character and makes higher pitched sounds that communicate very well and add so much to the story. It would be a positive addition if the other puppeteers could show personality through their puppets in this way. Finally, Ying-Lung is a wonderfully animated narrator, but it could be thought of as over animated; thus drawing the audience in more gently could be a benefit to the audience attention of this visually compelling piece.