No Strings Attached: Nomadic performers bring aerial theatre to new heights.
Aerial theatre which blends mystery, childlike wonder, technical mastery and whimsical beauty The Paper Doll Militia work constantly to create unique audience experiences. Bringing their latest show to the Edinburgh festival this multifaceted group of eccentrics have further extended their range with their latest production; This Twisted Tale.
Part Wings of Desire, part Cremaster Cycle, part Neil Gaiman the performance tells the story of a young misfit called Chloe and her encounters with the devil. A knotted narrative, dizzyingly woven together with acrobatics and vibrant choreography The Paper Doll Militia seek to suspend audiences between the worlds of trapeze, dance and theatre using their bodies as the fulcrum. But can they win over the fickle senses of the saturated Edinburgh audiences?
In the middle of their Edinburgh season The Militia took time out to answer Trebuchet’s questions.
Who makes up The Paper Doll Militia?
We have a handful of collaborators that have worked on This Twisted Tale. From puppet masters to welders, we have scooped up talent along the way to make our fairytale writing a reality. However, the company itself, the Militia, is actually composed of just two of us, Rain Anya and Sarah Bebe Holmes. Together we dream, sew, write, design, act, twist and turn.
What brought you together?
Existential Crisis. We came from very different backgrounds and situations, but both had the same crisis over and over, wanting to achieve amazing feats with our bodies, without sacrificing the meaning and storytelling of live performance. We joined forces under the same desire to infuse circus with meaning and magic, and thus The Paper Doll Militia was born.
You’re an interdisciplinary team, what binds you together?
What binds us, besides our hand grip, is the movement toward intricate, engaging, and thoughtful storytelling. We infuse our stories with imagery from video projection and puppets. We heighten the intensity of the movements with original and emotive music. We take our different backgrounds, influences, inspirations and we throw them into a pot, only to pull out the best.
What does energy mean to you, is it more than movement?
Well, being from San Francisco, we’re very familiar with the term “energy.” It’s both indescribable and utterly tangible. In performance we often feel a tremendous surge of energy coming from the audience that we take in and use to give them back more of what they want.
In terms of movement, Aerial (performance) is the ultimate source of intense energy. We have to be extremely present, focused, and centred to execute our movements with safety. We use meditation and breathing techniques to centre ourselves before we step foot on the stage every day.
How do the workshops feed your art?
We love teaching. We love sharing our craft with others, we love challenging ourselves and others to new heights. The satisfying ‘a-ha’ moments that we are privileged to witness in our students continues the cycle of inspiration.
What inspires you to do what you do?
We’re hyperactive, and like to listen to and tell stories. What other profession would possibly suit us better. At the end of the performance we stand, exhausted, at ease, at peace.
Is the Edinburgh festival the focus for your group or is it a rolling caravan?
Rolling caravan. We started touring this show in the States, we brought it here, and we are looking to continue sharing this show with audiences around the world for quite some time.
How do you keep the shows fresh for you each night?
Our show is extremely technical, both in moving parts (pulleys, fort building, puppetry, etc.) and in aerial skills. It stays fresh because if we spaced out for a single moment, our show would undoubtedly fall apart at the seams and people could get hurt. It has never been boring for us, and we can’t imagine it ever would.
What was the most magical show for you so far?
The one that’s about to happen. Each show matters, every show is magical.
What can people expect from the show?
Expect magical imagery, quirky characters, spectacular aerial arts, and a great story.
What would you like people to take from the show?
We hope this piece effects people on a very emotional and personal level. Our central character has lost touch with who she was as a child, her dreams, and her desire to jump into the unknown. It offers options to everyone in the audience who may relate to her, hopefully sparking new inspiration to connect with their childhood imagination and moxie.
We want them to leave the theatre with the impetus to DO something, anything. Write a haiku, climb a street lamp, visit a playground at 3 in the morning for the hell of it, take the ugly tea cup that your aunt gave you but you never liked, smash it on the floor and laugh.
…and many thanks to you.
Bringing together so many disparate elements into a single show is quite a feat but teaming up with noted director Ben Harrison (Almeida Theatre company London) audiences can be assured of a confident performance that satisfies on many levels.
August 3rd – 28th (No Mondays)
All shows at 16:00 (ends 16:55)
The Paper Doll Militia website here.
Out of The Blue Drill Hall
Leith on the Fringe
30-36 Dalmeny Street
Edinburgh, EH6 8RG
5-28 Aug £12.00 (£9.50)
Box Office # 0131 226 0000
Images: Photos By Marilyn Chen
Ex-London based reader of art and culture. Specialist subjects include; media, philosophy, cultural aesthetics, contemporary art and French wine. When not searching for road-worn copies of eighteenth-century travelogues he can be found loitering in the inspirational uplands of art galleries throughout Europe.