The idea of a (mostly) solo puppet show about a degenerative neurological disease might not be the most obvious thing to grab you. But even though the puppet does not even have a costume, in the expert hands of Smoking Apples/Dogfish this becomes a celebration of technique and emotion.
We meet a man immobilised in a wheelchair by motor neurone disease, a simple figure in neutral white with the hint of a wry smile on his otherwise featureless face. As he thinks back to the days before the disease finally deprived him of his ability to move, three black-clad puppeteers bring his thoughts, hopes and fears to life on the blank canvas of his body.
The man leads a solitary but happy life, engrossed in his stamp-dealing world, but realises when he is diagnosed that he has never travelled. With a goldfish for company, he sets off on a train journey through Europe where adventures are small but horizons are huge, learning to come to terms with his devastating future.
An inventive, funny array of props add colour and depth to his world – the goldfish in its bowl, stamp magazines to peruse, a table becomes a train – while a nurse and a travelling companion are created with a simple face and hand. Meanwhile shadow puppets and signs jig across a wide screen at the back, charting the stop-off points of his final journey.
Devised and performed by William Aubrey Jones, Molly Freeman and Matthew Lloyd with co-devisor Carly McConnell, this is a play that expertly reveals how minimalism can create big pictures in our imaginations, and also convey a complex issue in gentle human terms.
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