Improbable- The Paper Man

Its a festival of firsts for me this year. First time writing about dance. First time writing about music and first time at The Norwich Puppet Theatre.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long – its a brilliant venue that I will be keeping a closer eye on for sure.

Improbable have been on my radar for years. The company were founded by Julian Crouch, Phelim McDermott, Lee Simpson and Nick Sweeting in 1996. They came up frequently during university, but our paths never crossed until now!

What do we do when fascism comes to town?

In 1938, Austrian football star Matthias Sindelar humiliated the Nazi regime by refusing to throw a match. A few months later he was dead. Accident, suicide or execution? Inspirational little guy or yet another man and his ego? Who cares? 

Middle aged, white British, Football addict-in-recovery, Lee Simpson wants answers. He hires some women to make a show about football, Nazis, and our future.

In a paper world of light and shadow, violence and dance, four performers work together on what sets them apart.

The Paper Man is almost a play within a play. We get a sense of what Lee Simpson wanted to create, but what *was* created was a fascinating look at the actors lives and points of views. We delve into their personal histories with the game and also into the history of women in football too!

The use of light and shadow enhanced the storytelling nature of the show. It draws you in you find yourself listening intently to the tale you are being told.

At the heart of Improbable is improvisation, be it in devising, rehearsal or performance. Knowing this going in adds an undercurrent of excitement, as you know what you are about to see will not be the same as what previous audiences have seen.

It must keep it fresh and fun for the actors too, knowing you can adapt your show to each individual audience.

As an audience member it’s hard to spot where these moments are, the whole show ties together so well and the actors are so good at their craft that there are no obvious pauses. I made the rookie error of being on an aisle seat and so had the added worry of being involved in the production somehow. I remained safe but the interaction was fun and simple – but still had a huge impact on the over all tone of the show.

The Paper Man is fast and full of humour – dark and light. There is an informal nature to the show, with audience interaction and the conversational nature the actors often take with each other. Nothing seems forced or uncomfortable. It’s educational and moving – but you don’t go for long with out a smile on your face.

The story of Matthias Sindelar was actually quite fascinating and something I googled on the train journey home, so I suppose Simpson’s aim of getting people interested in his story worked – just maybe not quite in the way he envisioned.

More dates of The Paper Man are to be announced soon, and I highly recommend joining their mailing list to see when it’s coming to a theatre near you!


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