One of many shows entertaining audiences attending the Manipulate festival at Summerhall this past Saturday, Journey is a short yet striking piece of puppetry, which transports its protagonist and audience into other curious worlds.
Usually performing in a caravan to an audience of only four or so people, Swallow the Sea do their best to captivate their larger audience as they follow a young girl who learns about the importance of respecting, and appreciating the natural world that surrounds her. Though production does feel a little clunky at times – particularly as the light follows the action – this doesn’t detract too much from the Journey’s charm.
What at first appear to be unassuming cloth screens, and an old and worn suitcase, reveal themselves to be portals to different worlds for the young protagonist to explore. The mystical aesthetic and delicate puppetry make for a fascinating watch, instantly grabbing your attention. The young girl portrayed is filled with childlike wonder and pluck, and her adventure would surely have been appreciated by younger audiences. The reason for the 12+ rating on this production is unclear, and it’s a shame primary school children have to miss out on this beautiful piece of work.
With no need for dialogue, puppeteer Jemima Thewes fills the silence with a soundscape and song that together bring the shadows to life. Thewes’ atmospheric singing enhances the ethereal nature of the story being told, thanks in part to the echo added. In some ways, it’s a shame to learn afterwards that the song is a Somali love song that actually has no relevance to the story’s action – Thewes admits it is simply a song she liked and decided to include. Realising the words sung do not conceal another layer to the moral story told, all too quickly the mystery and magic teased in Journey begin to fade away.
Still, in the moment, Journey offers a glimpse into a world you would happily return to, and is a example of the wonder that can be conjured through puppetry.