The inventive, social-change focused company Improbable present The Paper Man at one of London’s most vibrant venues for new theatre and comedy. It’s the true story of Matthias Sindelar, an Austrian football star who refused to throw a match against Germany during the Nazi regime and was found dead a few months later.
Lee Simpson, actor and co-artistic director of Improbable, explains on stage that he wanted to tell this story for a long time and, but when he hired these female actors to do so and it didn’t quite turned out the way he expected. After all, as Simpson stated, football is a “boy’s thing”, so he thought it would be hilarious to cast women.
Part improvised, part rehearsed, part dance piece, part puppetry, you aren’t really sure for a while whether you are watching the show or a hilariously entertaining dress rehearsal, which I put down to Improbable’s unique style and collaborative staging by director Tanuja Amarasuriya. Simpson and his fellow cast members challenge stereotypical stories, talking openly about their memories of football, how they do or don’t identify with this story as human beings and the process of making this piece. They each provide their own unique responses: Vera Chok with a silent disco interpretive dance, Jess Mabel Jones with a cheeky story about the football boys she and her gals used to wait around for, and Keziah Joseph having a kickabout, chatting about when they finally got a girls’ team. All genuinely seemed like they were having a blast playing onstage. Each had their own comedic style and timing; often being pitted against each other for our amusement, they even had to try and convince the audience which of them should play Hitler later on in the evening.
Sound designer Adrienne Quartly is present onstage throughout the whole piece, supplying haunting sounds and original score on the cello. Most impressive were the shadow puppetry scenes, directed by Jones. Using actors, lights and small 3D models behind long sheets of paper that stretched from top to bottom of Sophia Clist’s set design, Sindelar’s story and what it meant to these performers came to life.
Although skeptical at first, I quite enjoyed The Paper Man and would definitely recommend getting Improbable on your radar (if not already) for your dose of exciting, improvised and interactive theatre. Some might say it was chaos, and maybe it was; but it’s the kind of evocative chaos you could watch over and over again.
Created and performed by: Vera Chok, Jess Mabel Jones, Keziah Joseph, Lee Simpson, Adrienne Quartly
Director: Tanuja Amarasuriya
Set Design: Sophia Clist
Lighting Design: Colin Grenfell
Sound Design & Additional Music: Adrienne Quartly
Shadow Direction: Jess Mabel Jones
Movement Direction: Grace Willis
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking Link: https://sohotheatre.com/shows/the-paper-man/
Booking Until: 9th March 2019