In a low-lit room at the top of the Battersea Arts Centre, Paper Cinema are rehearsing. Someone is tinkering on the piano, while next to him a girl plays the musical saw. The room fills up with a longing warble until someone else picks up a ukelele and the mood changes. A sheet hangs at one end of the room and in front of it an arrangement of of angle poise lamps and Hi 8 cameras are duct-taped to wobbly stools. On another stool is a pile of pen and ink drawings on sticks. These paper cut-outs are director Nic Beard’s drawings of Homer’s Odyssey and they are soon to become the stars of the big (well, biggish) screen. On stage alongside them will be a cast of Imogen Charleston and Nic puperteering and Chris Reed, Ed Dowie and Quinta providing the music and sound effects.
The story goes that Nic and Chris’ artistic collaboration was born when Nic swapped one of his paintings for the payment of his gas bill. Nic began making Lo-Fi AV for friends gigs but the projections that began as a practical way to showing his drawings in a night club setting soon became a crucial part of his work. Over the years he and his changing group of collaborators have developed a unique way to tell stories, layering images to build an orchestrated sketchbook, they project real-time paper puppetry to make cinematic animation.
Their first full length piece was a double bill of an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe story, King Pest, and and self-penned piece The Night Flyer. Their next major project was Rock Charmer an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Supported by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature in 2009, this began as a series of workshops and performances in Scottish schools and libraries and ended up taking the group to the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset to perform in a the rock chamber of a stone Quarry. Driftwood dinosaurs built by children became enormous puppets and the performance culminated in a lantern-lit walk through the caves to a nearby pub. From Denmark to Azerbaijan, they have taken their unique cinematic method around the world, building links with co-operative, volunteer-run spaces such as the Cube Microplex in Bristol and the Forest Fringe in Edinburgh. They have performed on the banks of the Seine on a sheet hung between two cherry trees, at End of the Road and Green Man festivals and now, having received Arts council funding, Paper Cinema are back at BAC.