The Paper Traveller at Kensington Central Library
Leaving its paper trail around select libraries in London, The Paper Traveller‘s immersive blend of reality and acting is a noble feat of logistics that entirely absorbs the senses in a detailed tale that leaves the reader somewhat unhinged.
A concept from writer and theatre designer Maria Klimis, the production is essentially a treasure hunt, where visitors rely on clues to access the evolving story and move from area to area through the library space. It starts with the Librarian offering a tote filled with prerequisites: headphones, a dainty bamboo toothpick, a pair of white gloves to handle the precious books and – slightly unnervingly – a tiny glass jar with a miniature library map should travellers get lost.
Our inauguration begins at a simple table. Two different coloured lanterns and books sit opposite each other meaning that even if we arrive in a pair, the paths are divided so we each complete our own journey. Travellers must plug their headset into the book, use their toothpick to flick the story to life and open the pages. Beautiful, intricate, paper cutouts spring out from the covers whilst the narrative begins to weave its tale. The voice of a softly spoken French girl breaks the silence and is accompanied by a magical music score by Andrey Novikov; it’s an eerie accumulation of violins, wind instruments and church bells that evokes a tremendous sense of foreboding as the tale unfolds.
Tiny envelopes inside the books contain clues, which then point us in different directions to the library shelves where we must continue our search. Fragmented sections of the story unfold through these books, which follow the central character into a dreamy world of fairgrounds and shadowy, haunting scenarios. Actors around the library help the story keep pace, enhancing where it needs to feel real and purposely plunging us into darkness as the tale ends.
The choice to perform whilst the library is open to the public is brave and unnerving. Silence surrounds each audience member, people are reading, students revising – the show definitely blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. A journey both joyful and spine-tingling but far too short-lived and we cannot help wishing the experience would last much longer.
Photos: Marie Klimis
Watch the trailer for The Paper Traveller here: