Macbeth (3 stars)


credit: James Allan

Paper Cinema apply sophisticated style to familiar story

Paper Cinema's productions have a distinctive dramaturgy: arrayed in front of a large projection screen, the company generate live music and animation, creating something between an old fashioned screening of a silent movie and a live action comic book. Allowing the audience to observe their making process on stage, Paper Cinema add a level of performance to the projection, with their intricate filming of their clean lined art and sets providing a surreal layer to the straight-forward storytelling of the cinematic presentation.

Their brilliance sits between the creative process and their creation: like a comic book stripped of panels and ripped from the page, the moments of visual intensity – Macbeth awake as he hugs his sleeping wife, the sudden shift in perspective to reveal a murderous dagger, the rush of psychedelic imagery as Lady Macbeth loses her grip on reality – are abrupt and startling reminders of the emotions driving the plot. The detail of a soldier's armour, or the decorations of a castle wall become gateways into the intricate processes that provide the ensemble's consistent and powerful films.

Yet in the choice of Macbeth – a story that needs little retelling – a lack of ambition and aesthetic limitations are revealed. The film is more of a reiteration of familiar motifs than a bracing interpretation: the emphasis on plot and period detail relies heavily on the tale's ubiquity. The images are, by turns, beautiful, evocative and emotive. But it is only in the more abstract scenes – Macbeth's paranoia, the ghost appearing at the feast, or Lady Macbeth's descent to suicide – that the medium is challenged to go beyond the action and explore the medium's potential for provocation.

This lack of thematic depth seems to come from the choice of material – with an entire play to slot into just over an hour, the emphasis has to be on moving the plot – and Paper Cinema are playing safe, retelling a story that is well-known in a way that rarely challenges the text, or the creators. The company are superb at making a well-structured story, and work the drawings to remarkable ends without ever pushing deeper into the material and finding either a surprising or engaging interpretation.

Part of Manipulate and Touring.


An epic tale of betrayal, regicide, madness, storms and battles set in Scotland’s rugged and unforgiving landscape, Shakespeare’s tragedy is brought vividly to life. Beautifully drawn puppets, evocative music, atmospheric foley sound and dynamic cinematic projection combine to create a captivating silent film before your…