Coming back to the Battersea Arts Centre after selling out a run in Autumn last year, The Night Flyer is a show created by the Paper Cinema. And created is the right word as the show features pen-and-ink drawn puppets and scenes which are manipulated in front of a camera and the filmed results blown up onto a screen for us all to watch. The action is silent, but accompanied by music giving it a cinematic feel which elevates it beyond your average puppet show.
The story insofar as I could make out revolved around a young man who having just met a girl witnesses her abduction by a Child-Catcher like villain on a train and then sets off in pursuit on his bicycle to try and rescue her. Nic Rawlings’ drawings are beautiful and the way in changing perspective and focus is used is at times breathtaking: the scene where the boy starts to chase the train was particularly effective and all the more impressive considering that you could see how the scene was being created and how hard they were having to work in order to generate the feeling of increasing speed.
Multi-instrumentalist Kieron Maguire provided some beautiful music throughout, especially on the viola, which created a wonderfully intimate atmosphere to accompany the visuals. Perversely though, this mainly served to highlight the major weakness of this show for me. On the one hand, you are witnessing this unique creative process at work, having this form of art deconstructed and then reconstructed in front of you. On the other hand though, you have this wonderfully immersive musical experience which is begging you to just surrender your attention and just watch the storytelling. The two didn’t quite fit together for me, the story isn’t quite strong enough or indeed long enough to warrant your sole attention, and in any case much of the beauty of the evening comes from the opportunity to watch the puppeteers at work.
On a final note, the show is preceded by a scratch version of a new work in progress, The Odyssey, which offers an insight into the creative process behind this kind of show and an opportunity to ask questions. This is accompanied by a generous Greek buffet, so you can eat away whilst enjoying what’s on offer, and save money on dinner out.