It’s the brainchild of writer and performer Shona Reppe, who greets us in the character of Patricia Baker, a doctor of ‘scrapology’ – in other words, she studies other people’s scrapbooks and uncovers the stories behind them. She’s a marvellous, fascinating creation – eccentric, romantic, clever, and full of child-like innocence and passion for her subject. Shona Reppe fills her with a multitude of beautiful idiosyncrasies, such as her ability to identify the geographical origin of sand by its taste. She’s entirely likeable, engaging the audience with wide-eyed enthusiasm and a sense of humour which is by turns witty and silly (we loved being addressed as ‘scrapettes’). The performance begins as a kind of informal lecture, but quickly develops into a journey to explore the story behind the owner of the latest scrapbook to enter her laboratory – a Victorian gentleman named Artemus J Mood.
It’s difficult to say more about the plot without revealing its secrets, and much of what’s enchanting about this play lies in the voyage of discovery each audience-member undertakes. Suffice to say that the doctor brings to life for us two souls as unusual and appealing as herself, and uncovers a story which leaves everyone with a huge smile on their faces and a feeling that they’ve seen some real magic played out before their very eyes.
Technically, the show is flawless, making great use of a variety of media. Evocative lighting and music, and intriguing sound-effects enhance the performance throughout. There’s also a screen which displays magnified images of the objects contained in the scrapbook, making it more accessible to all the audience. The book itself is marvellously magical, yielding sounds and images when touched by the doctor. And there’s some exquisite work later on with a series of cardboard models. The space is open and welcoming, with the audience arranged on low benches which (and this was our only quibble) aren’t very comfortable to sit on for nearly an hour.
The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean has enchantment, quirkiness, humour, mystery, impressive production, and a hugely charismatic and skilful performance at its very big heart. It is something unique and special. You should see it.