'In Our Hands' - Smoking Apples
One man’s trash is another man’s chip dinner, or whatever feast a hungry seagull can scavenge. So begins Smoking Apples’ fishy tale ‘In Our Hands’. The sound of the sea and a blue-yellow glow welcome us into a world where flocks of gulls are made from old chip shop newspapers and rain pours from a watering can over a toy car. This is a world visibly created through play, where the fisherman’s day begins with the rhythmic clatter of keys, a whistling kettle and the stoical sound of the melodica.
The story itself centres on Alf, an ageing, possibly alcoholic fisherman, whose failing business puts him at the mercy of debt collectors. Red, unpaid bills flap tormenting him. Alf is sinking into a fog, unable to deal with either the loss of his livelihood or his son’s rejection of the fisherman’s lifestyle in favour of the city. And so, we have a very human tale of family, estrangement, acceptance and pulling together when times are at their toughest.
The props and set are ingeniously designed, multipurpose and practical. Toy lorries travel vast distances as signposts flit past. Tiny trawler boats ride swathes of fishing nets, each one lit up with a torch as it swaps gossip about Alf. Each scene snaps cleanly to the next, in the hands of the five-strong cast. Wooden crates flip from table, to fridge, to boat. Everything is a little worn out and rusty, nothing is extraneous, including the puppets themselves. With only hands and a head to animate only one puppeteer is needed per character. Though I’d have enjoyed seeing a more physically tangible body in the life-sized Alf and his son, their simplistic design is justified in a world where nothing goes to waste.
It’s an unexpected show with many clever moments, from an equally surprising and young theatre company. I’ll be keenly looking out for their next show.
'In Our Hands'