Smoking Apples bring the en-trawling ‘In Our Hands’ to Margate on 15 November – 7:30pm.
We had a chat with the company to discover more about this acclaimed new play.
Company Q&A with Matt, Molly and Hattie (Co-Artistic Directors of Smoking Apples).
Why did you choose to make a show about Trawler fishing?
Molly: We knew that we wanted to work with a bigger cast to see what new possibilities this would open up in terms of puppetry. We had worked with Luke and George, the other two members of the cast, on other projects but never made a show with them so it seemed like a good time to do it.
Hattie: We spent a day together in a room trying to find a subject we were all interested in. We got talking about fishing and in particular trawler fishing as Luke used to work at the Sea Life Centre in London and was conscious of the environmental perspective. As we talked further, we realised that everyone had a different and varied viewpoint on trawler fishing, even within our small group.
Molly: The scale of opinion between the five of us was very varied with Luke seeing it from an environmental perspective, George being an avid documentary watcher and having seen lots of films about trawling, Hattie was a vegetarian, I was somewhere in the middle being fairly aware of current affairs and the arguments for and against trawling and the finally Matt, who is from a farming background where they operate very much on a kill to eat mentality.
Matt: We were really interested in the differences between what we all thought and this is what sparked the initial idea of the show. We also knew that we wanted to explore the trawling industry through a human narrative.
How did you work with the subject to create the story?
Matt: It was real challenge for us to make trawling interesting and accessible to the general public. It’s not necessarily something that people are automatically drawn to but we could see the potential in exploring the lives of the people who do it day in and day out.
Molly: Our research and development weeks in Cornwall gave us a real insight into the type of people who end up doing the job. Obviously, they’re not all the same but it takes a certain kind of robust personality. Although Alf is not based on anyone real, he is representative of a lot of trawler-men we met. This then hugely informed the story as Alf is incredibly efficient in his work and we started to look into how this might transferred into his personal life as he became efficient in both language and emotion. This then sparked the difficult relationship with his son and is sort of snowballed from there.
Hattie: One of our biggest challenges was to show the scale on which trawler fishing operates but still keep the personal, detailed puppetry. The ocean is vast and in order to fully cover how this industry works, we needed to able to zoom in and out throughout the show. We now have three scales within the show, there is Alf’s world, the scaled down, miniature world, where we use everything from small boats on sticks to tiny seagulls and then there is Gertie’s world. Gertie is a seagull so you see everything from her perspective.
In Our Hands is predominately non-verbal, why did you decide to do this?
Matt: As Molly mentioned, economy and efficiency are two of the most essential elements in trawler fishing. I went out on a trawler boat for 16 hours and I think about 6 sentences were said to me all day! They genuinely don’t talk to each other much so it made sense for us to continue on with that.
Hattie: The visual, non-verbal style allows people to access the information in a different way and engage with it on a different level. That’s really important to us as it allows the creative freedom to make the subject visually interesting and exciting. The fishing industry is often talked about using very complex language and it’s quite scientific so allowing the audience to access this through visuals and sound, rather than words works well.
What is it about that form of Puppetry that you like so much?
Hattie: Puppetry has the ability to transcend in theatre and for us, that is the ultimate draw but it still has to be justified within the world of the show. With In Our Hands, we used just the head and the hands for Alf and his son, Ben and it all comes down to the economy of movement trawler fishermen have. The head and hands are the vital components because the work is labour intensive, hence the need for the hands but it also requires a lot of problem solving and strategic thinking, hence the head.
Molly: A lot of people often ask us why we use puppetry when we work with very human narratives and physical action. Puppetry has this amazing ability to magnify. The distance created for the audience allows them to access the action differently and the emotion is projected through the puppet. This allows for something really special to happen.
What are your future plans?
Prior to this Autumn tour of In Our Hands, we have taken the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the month of August. We see real potential in touring In Our Hands internationally and have already had interest from International programmers.
For full details and to book, visit the event’s page on our website – In Our Hands