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Paper Tom
Published on Tuesday, 19 July 2011

5 stars

Arts Centre - Studio
18-19 Jul, 6:30pm-7:45pm; 21-22 Jul, 10:00pm-11:15pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

Examining the psychological effects of active service, Paper Tom follows the stories of two soldiers almost 100 years apart: one from the First World War, and the second in present-day Afghanistan. Tracing the parallel challenges of shellshock and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – as well as the common threads of loss, and the struggles of loved-ones left at home – this is an impressive and affecting piece of theatre.

A multi-disciplinary work, the play employs physical theatre and multimedia, interwoven with scenes and monologues to tell a poignant and absorbing tale. The use of projection, especially, is ambitious – but achieved skillfully, with precision and seeming ease, as the company moves about the space to create an ever-unfolding picture that is both technically impressive and truly beautiful.

Another highlight is the striking and emotive use of dance, in a scene featuring the two First World War soldiers. Simple and touching, this in particular is an extraordinary and memorable piece of storytelling.

Against such impressive features, it would be easy to look harshly upon the more traditional scenes, which I felt took a little too long to warm up. A couple of these sections could benefit from more direction to really nail down the specifics, but there were still some great moments and consistently connected performances from the entire cast.

Not an uncommon subject for theatre in recent years, Paper Tom is all the more exceptional for being able to bring a startlingly new perspective to the effects of war – both on the soldiers themselves and on their loved ones. The imaginative technical aspects are well-integrated with a creative blend of theatrical traditions, and dexterously serve to bring out the heart of the matter with a daring immediacy and truthful connection to the story.  This is not only a well-executed performance, but a sincerely heartfelt one.

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