REVIEW: PAPER HEARTS (Upstairs at the Gatehouse) ★★★★

Paper Hearts Upstairs at the Gatehouse

After it’s successful run at last years Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Paper Hearts arrives Upstairs at the Gatehouse. The story tells of young Atticus Smith (Adam Small), an aspiring writer working in a bookshop trying to find his way in the real world while simultaneously living in the world of his novel, Angel Star which he is trying to finish. The story itself is not only a heartwarming tale of love and aspiration, but a celebration of literature and the magic of getting lost in a story. Which is apt, as I did just that watching Paper Hearts.

The show flows in the most beautiful way, the characters intertwining and moments springing up and then disappearing. This is clearly a directorial feat and Tania Azevedo has inspired the actors to play the space confidently, encouraging touching moments of vulnerability that sometimes go amiss in musicals. She is a fantastic advert for having creatives involved from the beginning of development as she has nurtured this piece wonderfully. I would say, the clunkier moments in the piece were perhaps Lindsay Allister’s choreography, as I felt the piece didn’t need choreographed steps, Azevedo directs it in such a way that the piece moves, but I felt that the ‘dance numbers’ actually were a bit jarring.

Adam Small is quirky and charming as Atticus Smith. He commands the stage and while you cannot deny he is the stand out performance, he is generous to the rest of the cast, never overpowering them. His stage craft is impeccable and his voice is gorgeous, he sings Liam O’Rafferty’s score beautifully. He is a confident and talented leading man and I imagine this will not be the last time we see him star in a show, as he does indeed shine.

The most powerful numbers in the show are the ones with the entire orchestra involved. Daniel Jarvis’ arrangements of Liam O’Rafferty’s score are beautiful, particularly those that heavily involve the string sections of the on stage band/cast. I mentioned when I reviewed the show in Edinburgh how wonderful it is to see a show with such a variety of music – in Atticus’ ‘real world’ the songs are more contemporary where as in the book he is writing about Russia the music is more classical – and it is refreshing to see such intelligence in a score. O’Rafferty and Jarvis make a fantastic team.

The show has progressed beautifully since it’s Edinburgh run and next goes to Hamburg which I hope is not it’s last stop. It does not set out to challenge your mind, nor does it, but it’s a heartwarming and sweet tale of love, expectation and aspiration that you should not miss. There aren’t enough stories of musicals of this ilk around, and I hope that Paper Hearts is around for a long and successful future.

Reviewed by Kara Taylor Alberts @karaalberts
Photo: Tim Hall Photography