The theatre is a place for us to experience the beauty of storytelling in all of its live glory, whether it’s through a ready-written play or something devised by a company. It’s the latter that I was invited down to Slung Low’s HUB venue to see, and it came in the form of Smoking Apples’ new production In Our Hands. I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store, especially since they’d been famed for their use of puppetry and innovative storytelling in last year’s CELL.
The story focuses on Alf, an old fisherman from Newlyn very much set in his ways and daily routine of going out and fishing with his crew. It’s been his lifelong passion, so much so that it drove away his son Ben, who works in PR in London. It soon becomes clear that Alf’s methods, which have made him one of the best fishermen on the seas, are becoming outdated in a competitive, changing industry. Alf has to swallow his pride and ask his son for help, but it soon becomes clear that it won’t be an easy task.
Remember that famed use of puppetry and innovative storytelling I mentioned earlier? Yep, that’s all here! The company works incredibly well as an ensemble, powerfully puppeteering their way through a detailed little narrative that ebbs and flows along in just under an hour. The puppets, which are playfully and intricately designed, are full of character, and there’s a beautiful fusion of life shared by puppet and human alike onstage. Whether it’s Alf or a cheeky little seagull, the puppets take on a life of their own, and, thanks to the puppeteers, we genuinely believe them to be real and engaging.
Add into the mix the ensemble using various different props to create the world of the narrative and you’ve got an imagination-fuelled cracker of a production to feast your eyes on. Using things like table lamps, crates, blackboards and chips made out of foam, they effortlessly build up a world in front of you in a matter of moments, flitting with theatrical elegance and agility from one location to the next.
There’s also an excellent sound design to the whole piece. Tracks composed out of human soundscapes and pulsing music help to provide a backdrop to the piece that reinforces what it’s all about: the mixture of both old and new ways of doing things, along with the conflict it causes. The lack of live vocals in the piece really makes the imagery on stage stand out, and this fuels our imaginations even more.
In Our Hands really is storytelling at its finest. It’s fun, playful, witty and clever in the most unpretentious way. The genius of Smoking Apples’ storytelling make audience members’ faces light up with smiles, and amidst the wacky décor of The Hub’s foyer, it is clear to see that In Our Hands is acknowledged as a gem. I’ve been told that it’s going on tour in the not-too-distant future, and when it does, I urge you to go and see it.
In Our Hands was at Slung Low’s HUB on 26 July. For more information, visit the Smoking Apples Theatre website. Photo credit: Incoming Festival.