★★★★ In Our Hands at the New Diorama Theatre
Smoking Apples have created a gem of a show – taking the story of fisherman struggling to keep his business alive, and creating a truly magical puppetry experience!
Going to see a really well made puppetry performance is always a magical experience. When a company achieve that perfect blend of puppet making and performance, we can be totally engrossed in the story – forgetting that the characters we are rooting for may be little more than papier-mâché, or fabric and stuffing. Well, Smoking Apples have nailed it. Added to which, the world that they create for In Our Hands is one of very few words – the only text in the story comes in the form of recordings or broadcasts. The characters on stage communicate just by sounds and grunts, and yet we still have a clear idea of who they are and how they feel.
The main story revolves around an independent fisherman and his struggle to keep his business alive in the modern era. Alf is a wonderful character and a wonderfully made puppet – just head and hands are sufficient in creating all that we need to believe in him. The same goes for Ben, Alf’s son, whose relationship with his father is one we can all recognise. A wonderfully humorous sub-story follows Gertie the seagull on her search for food, and the supporting cast do a great job in creating the atmosphere of the fishing industry.
The show’s set is incredibly inventive – 3 wooden boxes turning from tables to fridges, to fishing boats and more. Shelves slide out of secret slots in the sides, chalkboards fold out to reveal hand drawn scenes, and model boats and cars appear, helping to show transitions to other locations. Plastic strip curtains and bright green fishing nets help to further the connection to the fishing world, and they also manage to sneak in a gorgeous shadow puppet scene.
Don’t be put off if you think fishing is not something you can relate to – this show has wider themes of family and of independence. In Our Hands is a total gem.