The Paper Architect ★★★★
CIA Studios | Review by David Zampatti
Two of PIAF’s biggest hits tell of a man and a girl searching for each other. One attracted a huge audience, the other sold out instantly after a frenzied demand for tickets. The main difference between The Giants and The Paper Architect is the little matter of their characters’ scale — 11m tall on the one hand, 8cm on the other.
In Davy and Kristin McGuire’s sad and lovely story, an old man (John Cording) sits, deep in thought, in a room full of paper: rows of paper terrace houses, paper furniture in tiny paper rooms, shapes and cuttings and slivers.
One piece of it, though, is a final eviction notice, effective tomorrow. The old man is angered by it but only because of the inferior paper on which it is typed. He puts it on a stack of others and returns to his reverie.
He finds the paper figure of a dancer and spins her on a record, playing Arvo Part’s tender Spiegel im Spiegel. It’s a wonderful moment but only a taste of what’s to come.
The room is dominated by a diorama of intricate paper weeping willows, and when the old man places the dancer in its frame, a fantasia of marvellous beauty comes to life.
The dancer (the silhouette of Kristin) is joined by a bird catcher (Davy) and their story plays out among the trees.
I’m loath to explain what we see, because it’s the McGuires’ craft and artistry — the telling rather than the tale — that trigger the spoiler convention.
The form and content of the delicate world of gossamer and filigree, mist and glimmering light that the McGuires have created closely resembles It’s Dark Outside by Perth’s own Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacsall.
Like that equally beautiful show, themes of ageing, failing memory, loss and closure are given expression in theatrical language of exquisite quality.
And, like Circa’s Paul O’Keeffe, spinning a cigarette paper propeller on his finger last week, The Paper Architect shows that the very best things in a festival can come in its tiniest packages.
The Paper Architect runs until March 7.