Thursday 17 May 2018
A world first for the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, the premiere of renowned theatre group new production Improbable’s The Paper Man has a run of several nights at Norwich Puppet Theatre, until Saturday 19 May. Improbable have a reputation for improvised work and the distinction of this show is that it takes a different course every night. I was sorry to have missed the evening with the post-show talk as it would have been good to find out more about how different each show is. Anyway, the core narrative and structure must be the same I guess.
The main story is about an Austrian footballer called Matthias Sindelar who was allegedly murdered by the Nazis when he refused to cooperate with them during the war. He is introduced early on and a fairly full description of his childhood and rise to fame as Austria’s best ever footballer is clearly explained. But when actors Vera Chok, Jess Mabel Jones, Anna-Maria Nabirye and Adrienne Quartly start to improvise their input, it starts to get a bit more surreal and hard to follow as they all bring in their own perspectives as women, women of ‘colour’ and a variety of views on diversity and oppression.
Football features heavily and somehow Newcastle United creeps into the story, with the actors kitted up in black and white for much of the play. Hitler moustaches also feature - which always makes me feel uncomfortable somehow. The idea stems from Improbable member Lee Simpson’s late night TV watching some years ago - a programme about Sindelar whoch fa. The design of the show is brilliant, the visual effects are great and the shadow puppetry/projection works very well. Paper scenery and scene changes are also very effective. It is a very professional production which reminds me a bit of a jazz gig where there is structure to a point but each musician ‘takes it away’ for a while an then it all comes back to a single point - no reason why that shouldn’t happen with theatre too. Take your chance to catch this show while it is in Norwich - you can read more about the ideas behind the show here www.nnfestival.org.uk/lee-simpson-on-the-paper-man