In Our Hands, Belly Button, Underbelly, Fringe Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Smoking Apples
Samuel Wyer (set design) Jo Walker (composer), Sherry Coenen (lighting design), Gemma Williams (dramaturg)
Matthew Lloyd (Lead Puppeteer on Alf), Molly Freeman (Second Puppeteer on Alf’s left arm & Ensemble), Hattie Thomas, (Puppeteer on Gertie (Seagull) & Ensemble), Luke Breen (Puppeteer on Ben), George Bellamy (Lead shadow puppeteer & Ensemble)
Running time

Celebrated puppet company Smoking Apples returns to this year’s Fringe with a story based on the success of a real Cornish fisherman called Stefan Glinski who used innovative methods to catch sardines and in doing so create what is now thriving the Cornish Sardine industry.

In this latest production, it becomes trawler fisherman Alf Hayward’s story. Alf is a popular old guy who’s now widowed, a bit over fond of the bottle and in massive debt. With the help of his London based son who works in PR, they find success and solutions in sardines.

Lapping waves set the tone of atmospheric sounds in this fast pace show as a flock of screeching gull in the form of what looks like a simple drawing brought to life swoop and flap. The one life -like glass eyed gull puppet is a comic replica of the scavenger of sea and town but Alf and his son are represented by just disembodied heads and hands. While this worked well as a method in their highly successful show Cell, this time it feels unco-ordinated. The narrative is progressed by means of playing Alf’s recorded phone messages and the significance of his keeping the voice of his dead wife Julie is not lost, though it sounds as though he was married to a very much younger woman, which the funeral scene indicates was not the case.

The action is a mix of interaction and puppetry and here lies part of the problem. The puppeteers are both not quite unobtrusive enough and not quite fully involved actors as the dialogue is near wordless. The stage feels too busy with way too much going on.

The show is chock full of inventiveness like the wee car driving in the rain, and making a net the sea with miniature boats against the set from Samuel Wyer that seems full of endless possibilities as it reveals surprise after surprise in the small space. Fish stocks being symbolically rubbed out on a blackboard and Alf’s debt shown as a hail of red reminders are effective as are the sound effects that includes a puppet peeing, causing some audience titillation.

In Our Hands is a show with a worthy message but sadly lacks the sensitive touch ofCell so comes across as being as heavy handed as the big wooden hand that’s used for old Alf.

4 – 28 August 2016, 4pm