The new Harry Potter film may have proved divisive. But there's one thing everyone from bored critics to fanatical bloggers seems to agree about, and that's the brilliance of the shadow-puppet interlude that gives the back-story of the titular Deathly Hallows. Looming up out of the main narrative as if cast by the light of a campfire on a prehistoric cave wall, its flickering shapes have caught hold of so many imaginations that the director of the sequence, Ben Hibon, has been signed up to direct Pan, a dark spin on Peter Pan once intended for Guillermo del Toro.
Swiss animator Hibon used digital media to create his 21st-century take on shadow puppetry, but those who find they have a taste for the dark art can check out the live work of shadow puppeteer Matthew Robins, who has shows in London this Christmas – and uses nothing but a projector and sheet after sheet of black cardboard.
Robins has contributed four sequences for Katie Mitchell's Beauty and the Beast at the National Theatre, helping to create a picture-book world filled with dark forests and monsters. And he has his own seasonal show at the Barbican's Pit theatre, Flyboy is Alone Again This Christmas, starring his trademark creation – a half boy, half fly whose surreally domestic adventures Robins accompanies with songs at the piano. His shadow puppets were also seen earlier this month at the Royal College of Surgeons in Gorgets And Bistouries, a magical encounter with instruments both musical and, appropriately enough, surgical.
Created in the young man's bedroom with a sharp scalpel and an even sharper imagination, Robins' shadow puppets are as homely as they are eerie, and have a sort of DIY magic perfect for this recession-era Christmas.
'Beauty and the Beast', National Theatre, London SE1, to 4 January. 'Flyboy is Alone Again This Christmas', Barbican, London, to 2 January