Paper Sky

A scene from Paper Sky.
A scene from Paper Sky

On paper (no pun intended) Paper Sky wouldn’t sound like my kind of thing. It makes extensive use of puppetry and physical theatre, and there’s relatively little dialogue to speak of. Not that I think any of these elements are necessarily bad, mind you – but I wouldn’t have said that they’re my favourite.

It’s a good thing I went in with no prior knowledge, then – because Paper Sky is a thoroughly engrossing and delightful theatre experience. At its heart is a fairly simple and uncynical love story, but the way that story is delivered is nothing short of magical.

The main character, Henry (Emmett Skilton) is a reclusive author. As he writes, he’s shadowed by three external facets of his personality (Veronica Brady, Alison Bruce and Justin Haiu) who at turns both help and hinder him. When we meet Henry, he’s suffering from a kind of writer’s block – it’s not that he can’t write, but more that he’s not happy with what he is writing, and its parallels with his own tragic past. All is set to change, however, when Louise (Julia Croft) moves in next door and having read some discarded pages from his manuscript, begins encouraging Henry to break his self-imposed seclusion.

A devised work from Auckland’s Red Leap Theatre, Paper Sky is exquisitely executed. The performances are pitch perfect (and often hilarious), the lighting and sound design are both thoughtful and impressive, and the deceptively simple (and constantly transforming) set effectively becomes another character in its own right. In fact I’m not sure I’ve seen another work that blurs the line between set, props and character so thoroughly – and relatively few that work their performers as hard.

Unequivocally recommended. You’ll leave the theatre with a spring in your step and a smile on your face.

Paper Sky, Downstage, until 17 November 2012

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