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San Francisco Fringe 2015

Paper Wings

Sha Sha Higby

Genre: Costume, Mask, Puppetry

Venue: Exit Theatre


Low Down

A uniquely beautiful performance with visual art, masks, puppetry and dance that transports you to another world. Ethereal and abstract, enthralling and fascinating.


Paper Wings is a show that takes the audience into another world, far, far away. It’s rich and visual with exquisite sculptures, masks, fabrics, golden amulets, and intricate sophisticated creatures. Sha Sha Higby creates her visual art and dance based on her experiences in Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and India. The stage is populated with lots of items mainly made out of natural materials. Something moves slowly and then transforms itself into a filigreed creature, then into an abstract form – and even more – as it travels slowly around the space. Each object and sculptured being is unique and not recognizable at first as anything in particular, yet as time passes the details and beauty of the moving art unfolds and enthralls.

Videos projected on the back wall play through most of the performance showing slow moving textures and images. A fascinating soundscape of woodland sounds, xylophone and later Indonesian gamelan is woven through with other abstract sound and music. The atmosphere of all these elements combined with the slow moving creatures produces an ethereal and otherworldly sensory experience. The main creature played by Higby, completely hidden, is not mere decoration, it is a being on a mission as it travels around picking up objects, like a marionette made out of twigs. It places items on a light in a big shell on the floor which projects blue and purple light on the wall and ceiling.

There is always something interesting to watch on the stage and the audience was utterly transfixed. Totally unique, it’s impossible to know what will happen next, yet we are so much in the moment with Higby’s characters in time and place that we don’t really need to think about the future. Subtle touches of whimsy and wonder are peppered through the creative ritualistic journey of discovery. Higby’s movement is slow and sustained and works very well for the integrity of the piece. As she moves parts of the sculptured costume are seen in closer detail and it is clear that everything is created with such care and high quality. This is a show to absorb minute-by-minute, image-by-image. It’s almost meditative and fascinating to lose oneself in this wonderful visually rich environment.