A tiny show with a huge message

String Theatre have brought, crows, chimney sweeps and circuses to the Corn Hall in previous years, in productions that featured the changing of the seasons, the aquatic world of fish and myriad forms of insect life. It is perhaps, therefore, no surprise that a company that focuses so resolutely on the natural world should turn its attention to the ubiquity of climate change.

A Water Journey is a deceptively simple, yet touching, tale of an old man and the animals that surround him in a remote, otherworldly place where dogs dance with ducks. Performed entirely wordlessly, the company relied heavily, and successfully, on the expression they injected into a delightful selection of long-string wood-carved marionettes. As ever, puppeteers Borbála Mezö and Soledad Zárate remained out of sight throughout, and in hindsight the skill with which they operated their puppets was hugely impressive. At the time, however (and this is surely the best compliment one can pay) the audience rarely gave the puppeteers a thought, so caught up were they in the character of the marionettes.

I’m loath to give away too many of the set pieces, but String Theatre’s unique attention to detail and cinematic perspective was used to good effect, with a closing scene that had the adults cooing with delight as loudly as the children. Apart from a brief, and superbly crafted, animated scene created by Gary Cherrington, the production relying on nothing more than Marcin Miloszewski’s subtle lighting and Jimmy Sheals’s haunting score to complement the puppetry, and in that sense it is perhaps their purest production to date. This was a gentle, almost meditative, telling of a moving and prescient story about creatures battling against forces they cannot hope to combat. It had jeopardy and drama, albeit sensitively presented, but ultimately it shared a message of friendship and hope.

This performance was audio-described for those with impaired sight and also included a free pre-show touch tour, making it fully accessible to everyone.

David Vass