In Our Hands
Inventive puppetry shines a light on modern-day fishing industry
If there's a clever and unusual way of doing something, then chances are Smoking Apples will find it. The London-based company explores the increasingly problematic world of trawler fishing in its new show, In Our Hands, highlighting the economic, environmental and very personal challenges the industry faces.
Cornish fisherman Alf is the focus of the show, beautifully played as a puppet made purely out of a head and two hands. A recent widower whose son left behind the family business to work at a London PR firm, Alf is struggling to pay the final demands pouring through his letter box. EU fishing quotas might be necessary to keep the oceans populated, but with larger companies undercutting him, Alf's small business is suffering.
That's about as far as the political angle goes, which is a shame because there's a more powerful statement to be made here – and Smoking Apples is more than capable of making it. Likewise the personal story of a father and son struggling to connect in the absence of a matriarch could be unpicked further. Because when they bring the two men together (again, the son is just a puppet head and two hands) you can almost touch the unspoken sadness between them.
In the absence of political gravitas or three-dimensional characters, Smoking Apples has put most of its efforts into making the show look (and sound) great – and boy do they achieve on that front.
Boxes and cupboards are wheeled across the stage, morphing from a fridge to a trawler ship. A long green net is wheeled out and tiny fishing vessels bob upon it, illuminated by torches as they communicate via radio. Each journey to London, made by the haulage trucks delivering fish from Cornwall or Alf visiting his son, is depicted by toy cars rained down upon by a watering can. You get the picture – it's all visually inventive and consistently entertaining.
If only the storyline and characterisation had as much depth as the ocean this skilful ensemble creates on stage, In Our Hands would be everything you could wish for.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 28 Aug, 4pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).