The narrative has a clear progression. We met the characters and their worlds, learn about how the two interact, witness their friendship take shape. There’s beauty in how simple yet rewarding, how straightforward yet immersive Paper Shaper’s story is. This makes Paper Shaper such a successful and enjoyable performance to watch.
Paper Shaper is a masterful example of storytelling, and the show tells us without a single word of dialogue. Wilson and King both make use of post-verbal communication and highly-physical movements (King’s in puppet form), where the audience hears sounds and noises we associate with actions and feelings. Moments like the rubbish man’s frustration at a bird that pooped on his head are clear to everyone in the audience. He grumbles as he dives and dips when he’s avoiding the bird’s swooping onslaught, and wipes his hand on his trousers, groaning in disgust when he accidentally touches the bird poop on his hat. The action is crystal-clear and fun, hitting just the right notes of laughter from the many children (and adults!) in attendance.
King’s puppeteering is faultless; his control over the Paper Shaper’s movements and gestures is incredible, never missing a beat. The rules behind the puppet and its origami creations are easy to understand. In particular, I love the moment when we first meet the Paper Shaper. He creates a sun out of sparkly gold paper, basks in it, shapes a fan out of more paper because he’s too hot, and when he goes to take the sun down to reuse the paper it’s like he’s carrying a hot potato. It’s clear, it’s controlled, and it’s captivating. This marriage of artistry between Tim Denton’s puppet design and King’s manipulation of the puppet is a beauty to behold.
Paper Shaper’s lighting design helps to punctuate the show, allowing the audience to distinguish from reality and the imaginative world of the Paper Shaper. I won’t go into detail here so as not to spoil the magic, but the oohs and aahs from every child in the audience explains how encapsulated they become watching the two characters play together. This works in tandem with Gareth Farr’s infectious musical score, which amplifies the show’s whimsical tone; I find myself bobbing my head along with many of the children in the audience. Yet, the volume is a tad loud at times for the BATS’ Propeller stage.
Paper Shaper is storytelling at its finest. It’s a testament to the abilities of Little Dog Barking when a show incorporating only post-verbal communication creates such powerful emotional responses with its audience. We laugh, gape in awe, laugh again, and then shed a tear or two of joy, all in the space of this fifty-minute production. I'll summarise Paper Shaper with one little boy’s post-show exclamation: “THAT WAS AWESOME!”