The Paper Architect

Review by Marianthe Smart

Note: The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of RetoxMagazine.com

Created by Davy and Kristin McGuire
Co-Written by Tom Wainwrigh
Funded by the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust and co-produced by The Barbican with Create London

No writing, no signs, only paper cuttings

When you think of paper being emotive you may muse, ‘Well, words on paper can do great things, so can pictures’, but we’re talking paper, just paper. No writing, no signs, but paper cuttings that make you feel like you fell down the rabbit hole of a fantastical pop-up book. Davy and Kristin McGuire have created in Paper Architect such a poignant beauty that you do not mind the lack of words and the solitary Old Stamp (John Cording). Stamp is a lonely man living out in paper models a past that he longs for, turning his present into origami final notice swans. He interacts with the paper world that he has created as we the audience watch an amazingly precise video projection of a man and woman (Young Stamp and Ling respectively) in a forest. Stamp adds to his story, aiding and interfering, as he watches this ideal world come to life. Unfortunately, like his present, this imagined past cannot be sustained.

Cording’s portrayal of Stamp is almost as beautiful as the paper, his giggles and grunts, fear of the outside, and face that seems always on the verge of tears in the moments when Stamp acknowledges his true situation – Cording’s subtlety stands up to that of the projected Young Stamp and Ling. Unfortunately, this delicacy was marred by the noise of the street outside, cutting rudely into the beautiful music and emotive moments in the play. I also felt at the end of the play that I wanted more, more because it was just so beautiful and more because the story did not feel complete to me. Everything and everyone were absolutely perfectly formed, yet I felt that I wanted more exposition, more detail into Stamp’s life leading up to this point, maybe even more about the real Ling. But perhaps that is just me being nosy.

The paper architect The paper architect

The paper architect.

Reviewing Paper Architect is not easy, it is too unique to fit into the rubric of a review, too fascinating. I could write forever listing the intricacies of its beauty – paper willow branches, subtle and inventive lighting, ivy leaves entangling a spired graveyard fence, misty midnight light and sunrises projected onto a paper forest – there is simply too much. I will leave it up to you to watch when it finds a new home, or when Davy and Kristin McGuire create something new, which I hope is very soon.

The Paper Architect Trailer

The Paper Architect trailer

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