Why is 'The Paper Man' important to Improbable'?

Lee Simpson, a founder member of Improbable and part of their Creative Team, talks to us about the idea behind the project.

Why does Improbable make a show?
Sometimes a theatre, festival will ask us to. Other projects, like The Paper Man, emerge from a person or a conversation inside the company. People are often surprised that the original source of an idea makes no difference to how close a project is to our heart. Essentially I think it is because we are not primarily interested in the content of our work but in the processes and relationships that make it. It is how we are as we make and perform our work not the words we say on stage that allows us to grow as artists and people. The Paper Man is no different because it is completely different: new people, new ideas, different worldviews, ready to challenge and shape the ongoing story of the company.

Where did the idea for The Paper Man come from?
The initial idea for The Paper Man came from a very prosaic moment. I’m at home, it is very late, I’m watching TV instead of going to bed, flicking through the channels (this is maybe 12 or 13 years ago before it was Twitter that kept me from closing my eyes). My restless channel hopping alights on a programme that seems to be about football history. I love football, I love history, I stop flicking. It’s telling a story about a footballer I’ve never heard of. He was at one time reported to be “the best player in the world”. It’s late. I’m tired, but it looks like he was an Austrian, who may have been murdered by the Nazis. I go to bed. Tomorrow I’ll start finding out a bit more about the Paper Man.

Soon I knew I wanted to make a show about this man and this story. It took all of those 12 or 13 years to get the funding to do that. Without quite knowing why I found myself putting together a team of performers that were not traditional casting for a piece about European football in the 1930s. They had very different ideas about the story and a very different relationship to it and that has had a profound impact on the kind of show we are making.

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