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The Paper Cinema’s Macbeth review at Battersea Arts Centre, London – ‘expressively drawn’

The Paper Cinema's Macbeth at Battersea Arts Centre. Photo: James Allan

Paper Cinema has condensed Shakespeare’s most accessible (and sensational) tragedy to a 75-minute run, using their signature multimedia style.

Entirely wordless but accompanied beautifully by Christopher Reed and Francesca Simmons with a score which feels as earthy and tactile as the play itself, this Macbeth is one of broad (pen)strokes.

The expressively drawn hand puppets are devised and operated with absolute precision, and it’s a refreshingly nasty take too, with copious amounts of hand-drawn gore and nudity, as well as a good dose of self-reflexive humour which winks at puppetry’s inevitable limits.

There’s a certain magic to watching the film onscreen alongside the puppeteers and musicians working tirelessly below – a dual reality emerges, where the audience must hold both images in mind simultaneously.

Both mediums are fascinating to watch, and it’s a testament to the company’s meticulousness that not a beat is missed. It’s a feat of mechanics and human effort which would be impressive on its own, but it’s made more noteworthy that the story of Macbeth is depicted as precisely as it is.

Certain nuances of the plot are omitted, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice considering the eerie atmosphere conjured. It feels, ultimately, like a heartfelt ode to the imaginative potential of theatre and film.

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A meticulously executed, vivid adaptation of Shakespeare’s play using puppetry and live music