In Our Hands

In Our Hands tells the story of Alf — trawler fisherman, boat captain, father — as he struggles with a changing industry, big business rivals, and his estranged son. But the fairly simple details of the story itself are not of tremendous interest here; rather, it’s the relentlessly imaginative manner in which Smoking Apples tell their story that delights and amazes.

The lack of dialogue elsewhere results in sublimely original moments of theatre

Alf’s tale is brought to life through a combination of live performers, puppets, and a commitment to delectably inventive visual storytelling. Folded papers become the drooping V’s of picture book seagulls; netting becomes a figure for the sea; a slowly erased blackboard plots the progress of a fishing trip.

Aside from a few prerecorded items — radio broadcasts, voicemails and the like — there is no talking for the entire show. Instead, cries of ‘Oh!’, ‘Eh!’, ’Hey-o!’ fill the air, communicating everything they need to. The lack of dialogue results in the occasional exposition dump via one of the recordings, but that’s rare enough to be forgiven. And, as compensation, the lack of dialogue elsewhere results in sublimely original moments of theatre.

This spirit of creativity extends to the set, which is preposterously versatile. Any single item serves around ten different purposes throughout the show, morphing into everything from a boat to Ronnie Scott’s. Jo Walker’s original score, too, is fantastic. The show’s main theme is a sea shanty-esque instrumental track, mixed with physical sounds — life at sea bottled in a catchy tune.

There is also a downright adorable subplot revolving around a plucky seagull (operated by Hattie Thomas) in search of food and knick-knacks. Glimpsed from time to time as the story progress, it’s kind of like a puppet Pixar short, offering buckets of charm and plenty of lighthearted visual comedy.

The comparison to Pixar is an illuminating one: for, like that film company, there is a restless imagination at work behind the scenes of the entire show, in service of a slick, visually stunning production. In Our Hands tells a simple story, beautifully.

Reviews by Jamie P Robson

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The Blurb

Alf is a trawler fisherman at the top of his game. But times are changing and so is the industry. Will Alf adapt in order to survive? Follow a fish's journey from sea to plate, watch a seagull's ridiculous attempt to find food and witness a father and son reunite. Award-winning Smoking Apples, co-creators of CELL, use innovative puppetry, a striking set and an original score to transport you out to sea, under the ocean and onto the deck of the Catcher's Fortune. 'An imagination-fuelled cracker of a production' (