Written and directed by Marie Klimis, The Paper Traveller is an immersive theatre project made specifically for libraries. The production will grace several of these spaces as part of the 2018 Wandsworth Fringe Festival, bringing a unique storytelling experience to consumers and audiences across London. Made up of a series of sound installations, pop-up books, and live performance, The Paper Traveller uses multidisciplinary practice to explore the event of becoming lost inside a book. Through its site-specific approach, participants will travel two-by-two via separate narratives, equipped with a Book Travelling Kit to assist in their adventure.

An assortment of string necklets flutter in the current made by an automatic door. Embellished with either a red or white tag, each cord is marked with an individual code so as to identify respective theatrical tourists. After a brief demonstration, the necessary equipment is entrusted to its new owner: a set of headphones, a book travelling stick, a pair of white cotton gloves, and a miniature map of the library floor. Encased by a glass bottle and cork stopper, the plan of the space is packed in the event of becoming lost. Apparently, it is very easy to lose yourself when surrounded by stories.

Here, books are endangered species, so one must always handle them with care. They are found along with a lantern that matches the colour of your tag, hidden away, deep within Battersea’s literary collection. When cracked open, a cut-out scene unfolds, fashioned from pages of fiction and sharpened by ink. Each novel contains a discrete jack plug, like a keyhole waiting to be unlocked. Upon connecting the wired headset to this device, binaural whispers begin a tale so fluorescent with beauty that if their running time could have lived on, it would have been received without difficulty.

A paper traveller must be fearless. They cannot be afraid of the dark. They can’t be frightened of ghosts. Mr. Thompson, however, fears most things. It is only within the safety of the stories he writes that bravery becomes him. Each fragment of narration is found through clues, small signs that lead its listener further into the plot. A soft French accent describes a sleepy fairground, the shadows within an abandoned ship, and broken clocks as they flower on the branches of dead trees. “The brave can defeat time” they say, as characters come to life. Silence surrounds them as they deal with words and decks of library cards. They are all seeing, and keepers of wild and dangerous secrets.

It is after a period of darkness that the traveller must make their way out. After such escape and feelings of sanctuary, stepping into reality feels unsavoury. Leaving behind the world of Mr. Thompson seems cut short somehow, over too soon. The innovation surrounding this project is completely endearing, and its relevancy in light of the number of library closures this year, quite significant. Above all, Klimis champions creative access, which The Paper Traveller wholeheartedly achieves. It is a stunning piece of work, sensitive in its delivery, and full of the kind of magic that hides in plain sight.

The Paper Traveller is playing at the Battersea Library until May 16

Photo: Marie Klimis