The story of Macbeth – once Thane of Glamis, then Thane of Cawdor, and finally (after commiting regicide) King of Scotland – is probably Shakespeare’s quintessential, if not his most accessible work. Macbeth is the archetype of corruption, blind ambition and self-prophecy, and we all know it as one of theatre’s baseline cautionary tales.
What is certainly atypical however is the medium in which The Paper Cinema regale us with The Bard's tale. Illustrated paper cutouts, ingeniously creative sound and visual effects all bring Macbeth to life in a fresh way.
Five performers each control an aspect of the story, such as sound or characters, while three video cameras offer a live feed of the action as they manoeuvre the characters. This offers an immense depth of field for the show, as we see every shake, and feel each spill of blood, positioned closer to the story that many will be familiar with.
Whilst our gaze should remain fixated on the screen before us, we can’t help admiring what is going on below, and we want to see the man behind the curtain offering an insight few other shows manage. This isn’t just theatre, but a love letter to animated process with stylistic choices similar to those of Josh Kirby (Discworld) or Hergé (Tintin).
When you strip away The Bard's language, you might think that this destroys the soul of the piece, but what we may lose in speech is made up for tenfold with music. Christopher Reed’s composition accompanies the visceral piece, scored in an earthly, gritty folk style. Together with fellow performer Francesca Simmons, their sound delivers on atmosphere throughout, from Celtic numbers to spectral undertones.
The Paper Cinema’s Macbeth isn’t theatre, nor just an animated movie; the duality of its construction is echoed in what occurs to the audience. By removing speech and a great deal of colour, we are encouraged to let our mind evolve the story. It’s the audience who give Lady Macbeth a voice; it's us who hear the gut-wrench in MacDuff’s cries.
With a growing base of fans thanks to manipulate, Summerhall and the Fringe, The Paper Cinema is quite rightly garnering the praise it deserves. As they stand surrounded by bulging stacks of paper, we are already excited to see what they deliver next.