The Paper Cinema’s ODYSSEY

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

21/10/2014 - 23/10/2014

Kavanagh Auditorium, Kavanagh College, 255A Rattray St, Dunedin

16/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

Lower NZI, Level 1, Aotea Centre, Auckland

29/10/2014 - 01/11/2014

Nelson Arts Festival 2014

Dunedin Arts Festival 2014

Production Details

“a delicately executed piece, full of delight” – The Telegraph


Direct from Britain, the Festival presents the New Zealand première of this magical and staggeringly clever, theatrical masterpiece.

Dunedin audiences will be astonished by the craftsmanship of this creative storytelling. Cinematic projection and cunning tricks transform a suitcase full of miniature cut-out paper puppets into an array of living characters and striking landscapes to tell Homer’s Odyssey.

This classic story is of one man’s almighty quest to get home and the perils of raging storms and supernatural forces that he endures on his journey. With beautiful illustrations and masterful puppetry, The Paper Cinema takes their audience on a vivid voyage through the high seas, to soak up the adventure and encounter danger and exhilaration.

Odyssey is a silent film created before your eyes, set to a captivating live score from exceptional musicians. This international production is a joyous cinematic triumph.

The Festival in association with Battersea Arts Centre and with the support of the British Council is thrilled to bring Odyssey to Dunedin.

Kavanagh Auditorium Kavanagh College, 255A Rattray St, Dunedin
Thurs 16 – Sat 18 October, 8pm
Sat 18 October, 2pm
Details and booking 

VENUE: Theatre Royal
DATE: Tue 21 Oct, 6pm; Wed 22 Oct, 7pm; Thurs 23 Oct, 7pm
DURATION: 70 mins
PRICE: A Res $43, B Res $37
UNDER 18: A Res $27, B Res $22
SPECIAL: Dinner at Harry’s and Show $69

Auckland 2014
Auckland Live in association with Battersea Arts Centre present
The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey
29 October – 1 November
Where: Lower NZI Room, Aotea Centre, 50 Mayoral Dr, Auckland
Ticket Information:
Concession (services fees apply): $34.00
Adult (services fees apply): $48.00
Restricted views: $25.00
Buy Tickets – 09 970 9700
Additional fees may apply
Website: … ist/2016036

Nicholas Rawlings Artistic Director and Puppeter
Imogen Charleston Movement Director and Puppeter
Christopher Reed Musical Director
Katherine Mann (Quinta) Violin and Saw
Hazel Mills Piano Electronics and Foley

Mark Munday Production Manager
Joe Walker Technician
Rob Pell-Walpole / Rhys Thomas Lighting Designers
Michael Vale Set Designer

Motion and Puppetry 
Nicholas Rawlings/ Imogen Charleston/ Caroline Williams / Irena Stratieva

Musical Composition
Christopher Reed /Ed Dowie / Katherine Mann /Mathew Brown

1hr 15 mins (no interval)

Sophisticated theatrical magic

Review by Dione Joseph 31st Oct 2014

Homer’s Odyssey is an epic journey that has become one of the touchstones of the literary canon. But at its heart is the journey of a father who wishes to reunite with his wife and son. Of course in true Homeric style the way home is scattered with obstacles that include monsters, unforgiving gods, descent into the underworld and ravenous suitors waiting to take his wife and kingdom – should he not return. 

To stage such a production with ease and fluidity Paper Cinema’s have worked their magic through carefully choreographing a live animation sequence. This Odyssey is not a mere re-telling but a re-imagining of Odysseus’ adventures and in doing so it brings the clever ink drawings of Nicholas Rawling to life through clever puppeteering and a brilliantly evocative live score.

Utilizing the traditions from the very first pioneers of cinema (think spinning magic lanterns all the way to the silent film accompanied by an in-house pianist) alongside a variety of animation and sound effects (including instrumental and voice), the company navigates its audiences through a highly visual extravaganza, that is enriched not only by the inventive storytelling methods but also by the complete display of how the magic is manufactured. 

A simple projection screen with calico screens alongside it forms the backdrop. The five company members are Rawlings and Imogen Charleston, the main puppeteers, accompanied by three very talented musicians: Chris Reed, Hazel Mills and Katherine Mann (Quinta). Together their technique and style are entirely visible to the audience, shifting the conventional suspension of disbelief to an appreciation of mastery and skill. 

At times however, it does feel that the form overtakes the story and that the style rather than the narrative becomes the main attraction for the work. At approximately 70 minutes of running time it verges just a tad on the long side but nevertheless for the majority of that time is successful in its pacing and energy.

For an example of sophisticated theatrical magic that merges form and genre in a highly imaginative manner, Paper Cinema’s Odyssey is undoubtedly a storytelling feast with plenty to offer to its audiences.


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Dionysus would approve

Review by James Wenley 31st Oct 2014

For a story that has passed from an oral tradition, and then written down by Homer, it’s intriguing how The Paper Cinema tell their Odyssey mainly through visual imagery and sound, filmed and played live. Even with the technological mediation (or perhaps because of) I felt connected with a story that has been retold and repurposed throughout the ages, as I sat in a darkened room to relive once again Odysseus’ perilous journey home.

To tell their story, The Paper Cinema has quite the impressive set-up. On one side of the stage are work-stations consisting of cameras and an incredible stack of paper drawings, cut-outs, and creations that will be used by Nicholas Rawling and Imogen Charleston to create the show’s visuals. On the other, [More


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Tight, talented, professional, unexpected, special

Review by Janet Whittington 22nd Oct 2014

It comes all the way from England. It fits into a small suitcase – if you don’t count the projectors.  The plethora of tables has all been made in NZ to Nicholas Rowling’s exact specifications. I can understand why.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of detailed cartoon drawings in a very fine-line pen are painstakingly adhered to card and blackened handles. How they keep track of them is beyond me. The images are neither numbered, nor in order. I know because the puppeteers are on stage, in front of the screen.

The puppeteers and their procedure are as fascinating as the screen, the story and the music. The tables need to be exact heights because there is so much that rests on minor hand movements of a few millimetres. If they need to compensate for tables as well as counterpoint each image with the projector light source… I shudder to think. 

This Odyssey is an extension of our childhood days inside playing with silhouettes and torchlights. What concerns me, as I sit down, is how extensively Rowlings has managed to leave his own childhood behind him. I don’t want to sit through an ill-executed childish show.

No worries there. Nic Rowlings is my new hero. The drawings are clear and detailed. The movements of the figures, landscapes and special effects are plausible to the tiniest movement. Together with Imogen Charleston he presents a unique live animation style. Rowling even draws the first few scenes with an ink and nib pen to lead the audience gently from reality into his world of Homer’s Odyssey

But the show will still flop without the fabulous musical score to carry our emotions away on the tide of drama that is the Odyssey. Chris Reed, Hazel Mills and Katherine Mann do the work of an entire orchestra and percussion pit. Counterpointing the puppeteers to the left of the screen, are the equally fascinating ‘orchestra’ of three, and dozens of ‘instruments’ to the right. Along with violin, guitar, drums and piano are a plethora of ‘other thingies’: saws, trays of gravel, sheets of metal, wind chimes, bubble wrap (simulating the crackling fire), trays of stick-shaped things that make the sword fights come alive, sheep stampede, thunder and lightning boom and who knows what else I miss because I can’t watch three things at once.

The impressive team of five cleverly keeps interest alive by injecting 20th century technology unexpectedly into the story. An atonal violin note played makes no sense until we see a boat with an outboard motor attached move across the screen.  The Cyclops grabs him, giving us a full view of the tattoo on the Cyclops arm – ‘Dad’ in a heart, no less. 

Playing to a near capacity crowd, the early time attracts many children and parents. Children can be noisy and distracting but not at this show. Not a peep out of the audience except to laugh or applaud as scenes and acts change. I think we hold our breath for most of the 70 minutes.

The show is better than I fear and even better than I can imagine due to the tight performance of five very talented, professional Brits. Paper Cinema is quite special. I am unlikely to see anything like this again.


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Magical, exciting, transporting theatre

Review by Barbara Frame 17th Oct 2014

On the left, two puppeteers sit in front of a projector. They manipulate small objects, mostly paper cut-outs – hundreds of them, exquisitely illustrated in ink. Other items include lights and their own hands. Their intricate task demands enormous skill, split-second timing and very steady hands. The combination of low-tech materials and modern technology allows us to watch the production of a highly unusual silent film. 

In the centre, a screen shows the results of their efforts, with multiple items producing three-dimensional effects to tell the story of Homer’s Odyssey. The tale is told respectfully but with the judicious and witty interpolation of modern images such as motorbikes and road signs. There’s a sense of wonder and fantasy as the story unfolds and Odysseus sails through twenty years’ worth of perils and ordeals to a deeply affecting homecoming and reunion, at last, with his forlorn, beloved and faithful Penelope.  

On the right, three musicians accompany this “silent movie” with a wide range of instruments and a variety of special sound effects.

Any one of these elements on a stage would produce a splendid evening’s entertainment. Together, they are captivating. 

The Paper Cinema, who bring this highly original production to Dunedin, specialise in blending aspects of animation, theatre and music in unusual ways, and are regarded as one of Britain’s most innovative theatre groups. 

This is magical, exciting, transporting theatre and by far the best thing I’ve seen this week. Three more performances are scheduled – catch one of them if you possibly can. 


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Unique evocation of universal themes

Review by Reuben Hilder 17th Oct 2014

When the Odyssey was first composed, it is believed the epic poem was intended to be presented entirely through the medium of spoken word. One cannot help but feel that there is, then, an element of irony in the fact that only one word is spoken in the entire seventy-minute running time of the Paper Cinema’s reinterpretation of the work, nearly three thousand years later. However, the British theatre company does just fine without words.  

At the back of the stage of the Kavanagh Auditorium is a large white screen on which is projected the live feeds of several video cameras set up on the stage. With the exception of the odd camera or lighting effect, the visual elements of the play are generated through the live movement of beautifully illustrated cut-outs in front of these cameras.

It is a testament to the skill of the puppeteers Nicholas Rawling and Imogen Charleston (also credited as Artistic Director and Movement Director respectively) that despite the relative simplicity of this method, the composition of images that appear on the screen demonstrates high degrees of sophistication and control. Through the careful movement of figures in and out of shot, and closer to and further from the cameras, Rawling and Charleston manage to generate flowing cinematographic sequences chronicling a journey through a surreal world that feels both three-dimensional and alive.

The figures are hand-drawn in black ink on white card and projected against a black backdrop, the vivid contrast making for stark and striking imagery. The skill with which these are drawn, as well as the skill with which they are moved in front of the cameras, allow the puppeteers to create a seamless illusion of motion despite the static nature of their puppets. Stylistically the work draws from the animated cinema and graphic novel genres. 

The performance is accompanied by an original soundtrack performed live from the stage. Musical Director Christopher Reed, performers Hazel Mills and Quinta, and Sound Technician Jo Walker, make use of voice as well as an impressive variety of instruments to create both atmospheric music and diegetic sound to complement the video feed. The music is in its own right beautiful and the creative assortment of props used to create the sound effects – including bubble wrap and what appears to be a box containing gravel – adds to the overall charm of the piece. 

Throughout their interpretation of the classic work, The Paper Cinema has added many of their own touches resulting in a performance that captures the poetic nature and emotive quality of Homer’s original, but is also decidedly unique. The universality of its themes of love, yearning and placing family above all else gives Odyssey a wide appeal but, having said that, I would recommend it most highly to fans of film, especially animation.


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