Underbelly Med Quad, Edinburgh
Paper Hearts is the story of Atticus Smith (Adam Small), a lowly bookshop assistant who, in his spare time, is banging away on the keys of a manual typewriter, trying to write a bestselling novel. His life takes an interesting turn when he meets and promptly falls in love with Lilly Sprockett (Gabriella Margulies), who, it transpires is working for (and having a relationship with) Atticus’s villainous Dad, Roger (David Mullen), the head honcho at mega-publishers, Random Books. Atticus and Roger have been estranged for years. When Atticus learns that his father intends to buy the bookshop – probably with the intention of turning it into luxury apartments – he starts to think that his life is ruined. But then he hears about a book competition offering a huge cash prize… a competition that is funded by Random Books.
Anybody hoping for a realistic exposé of the publishing business should look elsewhere. The plot is quite ridiculous; no publishing house in the world has ever carried on in such an unprofessional fashion. If, on the other hand, you have a liking for plaintive songs, brilliant musicianship and a shot of good old-fashioned romance, then this just might be the show for you. I sat there entranced as the ten-strong cast moved effortlessly around a stage with the general dimensions of a postage-stamp, singing, playing instruments, swapping costumes and switching roles with consummate skill. This production could have been designed purely to illustrate the meaning of the word ‘ensemble.’ Choreographer Lindsay McAllister deserves a lot of praise for making this flow so effortlessly.
I like the way the story cuts back and forth between Atticus’s own story and Angel Star, the Dr Zhivago-esque novel that he’s working so feverishly on. I loved the concept of a literary face-off between rival members of the cast and the suggestion (so true) that writers use their fiction to put right the things that never go well for them in real life. Like most others attending this packed performance, I left with a big smile on my face, humming the closing number. Which, for a show like this, is exactly as it should be.
If you like books and you like musicals, then there’s every chance that you’ll enjoy Paper Hearts just as much as I did.
Philip Caveney (ahem… novelist)