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.