Everyman Theatre Irving Studio, Cheltenham
Tuesday 11th June 2019

Set in the backdrop of the 1980s, Smoking Apples presents Flux, a fully puppeteered show where our protagonist Kate, a female scientist in a world driven by males, makes some remarkable discoveries and we as the audience watch as her brain swirls and ideas are formed, all whilst keeping her personal life in check, in Smoking Apples first production to feature a central female character.

There's something beautifully charming about this production; the puppetry of the full scale 'Kate' is enhanced with such precise mannerisms that you're fully engrossed and laugh at mundane activities that we can relate to, whether this is spraying our underarms to simply throwing items in a bin. It's these sorts of movements that makes Kate physically and emotionally human, something that we can instantly connect to. With the use of an 80s style dictaphone, we hear the thoughts and discoveries of Kate's findings through a series of diary entries, though rarely do we actually hear Kate's voice portrayed by the voices of the actors on stage. Instead we are treated to guttural sounds from the cast of four, but when we eventually do get to hear Kate's voice in the final moments of the play, it's impactful and fully empowering to females out there in a world dominated by males in the workforce.

Physical is not the only form of puppetry presented in this show; to guide scene transitions through Kate's daily life, shadow puppetry is on display and for the most part works superbly. It's only at moments which feel rushed that the focus on these moments are harsh and visibly unfocused. The use of neon lighting built into the periodic style set is a nice touch, which can also be said for the moments in which Tetris comes into motion, all designed by with a subtlety from Sherry Coenen. When we're introduced to Alan, Kate's love interest, the style in which he is presented again shows a human side to which is so hard usually to convey in puppetry. Jon Ouin's sound design is in keeping with the period, with a clever use of a vinyl player, and timed impeccably well to mix in with the lighting.

Overall, Flux is a charming piece of puppetry theatre with a central heroine character in which young females would be able to look up to. Though not theatrically groundbreaking, you will laugh along the way at some of the loveable, awkward moments shared between Kate and Alan, and leave with a smile on your face and your feet tapping along to the infectious rhythm.


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