The Paper Architect

Technical wizardry combines with whimsical sensibility to create magic
The Paper Architect

Silence. We are requested to maintain silence and our passage in to the performance space through the towers of labelled boxes and tiny, intricate paper carvings holds us dumb. In his armchair, an old man snores, every flutter of his breath audible. An abrupt knock at the door, a letter drops through the slot, and he wakes. Reading the letter, each tiny movement an effort, Mr Stamp discovers his final eviction warning. Scoffing at the cheap 80gsm paperstock, he takes a turn around his world of paper objects. Surrounded by an abundance of beautifully carved images, he puts a detailed graveyard away into a brown box and murmurs as he turns off the lights in a row of houses, before starting a record on his turntable. Conducting the music, he comes across a paper figure of a dancer on the floor. She dances, on the turntable, then in an exhibition hall as he sets up a cunning play of torchlight. Muttering again, Mr Stamp sends her off to explore a paper tableau of a treehouse by a lake. Amazingly, once placed within the landscape along the wall, the dancer leaps free of her frozen shape and runs to the treehouse. He returns to the townhouses and fetches company for her, but the young gentleman is shy and needs encouragement. 

Dawn, day, dusk, moonlit magic – the two young people flit and hide in their idyllic world behind the meticulously created landscape. Mr Stamp, played by John Cording, is captivated and encouraging, drawing us into the silhouetted drama as it unfolds. The tiny young people are played by Davy and Kristin McGuire, but the wonder is that they, and the various animals that appear, seem to be paper, miraculously animated.

Lighting not only brings the scene to life, but also creates its own moments of magic, allowing Mr Stamp to bring a beautiful moth from the scene back into his apartment. The profusion of paper art, ranging from origami cranes made from eviction notices, to tiny clocks hanging on the wall of a scale model of the lounge room (complete with miniature eviction notices on the table), a casual butterfly perched on the door and a bird net no larger than a fingernail – all these and random pieces on display in unsealed boxes that comprise the way in and out of the space, have been hand cut by Kristin McGuire, who combines a keen eye and steady hand with her full-scale, three dimensional dance talents. The attention to detail is impressive in its own right, but evokes the sense of this quiet man’s entire life in each trembling leaf of each willow tree.

The Paper Architect closes with a huge act of bravery and a leap of faith, as Mr Stamp shuffles his way through the door into the bright sunshine with nothing more than the clothes he wears and a dream in his pocket. Leaving us with our meandering return through those towering boxes to leave, closer inspection of the carefully lettered labels reveal the entire theatre has been constructed out of the shades of a life unlived, and each person takes away their own thoughts. In silence.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Paper Architect
Concept and Directors: Davy and Kristin McGuire
Set and Animation: Davy and Kristin McGuire
Co-Writer: Tom Wainwright
Costume Designer: Corinne Hockley
Lighting Designer: Chris Swain
Performed by John Cording, Davy McGuire and Kristin McGuire

CIA Studios, West Perth
26 February – 7 March

Perth International Arts Festival 2015
13 February - 7 March

Nerida Dickinson

Saturday 28 February, 2015

About the author

Nerida Dickinson is a writer with an interest in the arts. Previously based in Melbourne and Manchester, she is observing the growth of Perth's arts sector with interest.