In Our Hands at the New Diorama Theatre
At the New Diorama Theatre, In Our Hands – by the innovative group, Smoking Apples – is an enamouring puppet show about the fishing industry in Penzance, Cornwall. Combining real actors with puppets, the piece is conceptual in its unique and poignant depiction of activity around the sea, the joys and struggles of fishermen’s lives, a relationship between father and son, and a touching and comical story of one lone seagull. Exceptionally creative, reminding of Chinese opera and shadow puppetry, it is also an innocent, sweet performance, like a child’s game, a fairy tale.
Evocative sounds of waves on the beach and gulls are heard upon entering the small theatre; three mobile box units and a bag made of seaweed are in view. Players emerge flapping “wings” made of newspaper, squawking and gesticulating, emulating seagulls brilliantly. Set to redolent, cool music, this strikingly inventive production captures well the spirit of the sea and the fishing life with well-orchestrated sound effects, like the coordinated whoops and bellows of the fishermen as they haul their catch, or that of a local radio show about the industry: “We’re hungry for monster fishing!”
Visually, the combination of players and puppets – with lovely childlike representations of various aspects of the fishing world – is intriguing and entertaining. The puppet characters are three: an ageing seaman named Alf, his son, and a plucky seagull desperately trying to find himself a fish. With just a head and two hands each for the two men, these disjointed beings become remarkably real thanks to the artistry of the puppeteers. With no dialogue, the only actual descriptive speaking emanates from voicemail; the sundry grunting and mumblings are surprisingly effective, however.
Alf is a boat captain and trawler fisherman struggling with debts. His relationship with his estranged son, an executive, is complex and moving. With brilliance and skill, the details of their story are woven into a realistic portrait. Various props create a form of conceptual art: the ocean is a nautical net with small boats moved across or alternately lit while ship’s communications are heard. Toy lorries are pushed along until they reach a “London” sign, then dropped into a basket. An ocean warehouse becomes a fish market, then a fish and chips shop.
Clever, witty simulations are plentiful and theatrical transitions are seamless. Inspired and ingenious, In Our Hands is a charming, highly enjoyable production.
In Our Hands is at the New Diorama Theatre from 16th until 18th September 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for In Our Hands here: