It is time.
The Mobile caravan parked on the lawn in front of Inverness Eden Court Theatre looks inviting, possibly more so for the gazebo and the camping chairs in front. Bunting flutters lazily with the breeze that herds picture-book clouds along the blue sky. It feels like a holiday. The weather is playing along nicely.
Approaching the extremely unusual venue, its compact nature becomes more and more apparent – the audience comprises a maximum of eight people, strangers shuffling up on caravan benches. “No audience participation inside the caravan,” the leaflet reassures any worried customers. A little warm up outside probably helps, guessing names and occupations before “Catherine” leads us into the confined world we will inhabit for the next forty minutes. Confined, but on the move: the venue echoes the play’s central themes – entrapment, class labels and poverty of opportunity – whilst also celebrating all that is good and noble about the “working class” demographic it concerns itself with.
The secret of Paper Birds‘ success is to bring an audience into the familiar: a dated caravan – only to shock and amuse us with the unexpected: a talking kettle, projections, hidden treasures in cupboards and several audio and video montages, edited to raise questions (spoiler: no glib answers here!) about the world we live in, its values and at the core, our identity.
There is a sense of ease and well-being as we settle in to our padded seats. Single performer Georgie Coles welcomes the audience like old friends and weaves seamlessly and confidently between monologue, movement and narration, interspersed with flashbacks, projection, music and effective use of props. A central image of a spaceship recurs (it takes great velocity to overcome the gravitational pull and break free) and a nifty piece of lighting design on palms is particularly effective here.
Forty minutes fly by. This is a different kind of theatre. Eye contact throughout, conspiratorial smiles, unashamedly political, in amongst games of Connect Four and custard creams.
Literally in your face. In the best possible way.