Once, before there were eBooks—before there were even paperbacks—books were precious commodities. They were items to be treasured, and items to be restored. Not to sit on shelves as artefacts, but as treasures to be read, and read, and read again.
The Bookbinder takes us into this bygone world, cast in the role of new apprentice to the eponymous craftsman. But before we can begin our duties, there is a story that needs to be heard.
Evocating fairytales and other children’s stories of caution, writers Hannah Smith and Ralph McCubbin Howell have crafted an intricate story about the dangers of getting lost in a good book.
With a lo-fi aesthetic disguising the work’s complexity and precision, director Smith builds and shifts the work in surprising ways: simple storytelling gives way to turned pages in a pop-up book. The pop-up book gives way to figurines on a desk. A monster from the depths of the sea appears in ink dropped into water; an eagle’s nest is shown from shadows inside a lampshade.
Largely lit by one desk lamp manipulated by our charming performer McCubbin Howell, and played over Tane Upjohn Beatson’s evocative music, the work is kept resolutely intimate while taking in huge adventures, as any good book should do.
In the end, playing with both humour and darkness, The Bookbinder is just enough to make you want to take that job as that apprentice – and just enough to make sure you’ll leave the bookbinder’s shop never to return again.