The Edinburgh Fringe is a good place to spot new companies showing their first work, and this was the case with the intriguing A Heart at Sea from Half a String. Performed in a small venue at the Pleasance, this combined live music, puppetry and a stunning set to tell a strange tale of a boy who gives up his heart because of a number of life-changing events at sea.
The story is told by puppeteer and set builder Peter Morton and musician Avi Simmons, whose original music for the show is haunting and evocative. In many Fringe shows, a complex puppet is seen in a simple environment; this was the reverse with some very basic puppets suggesting rather than illustrating the characters and leaving much to the imagination of the audience.
The pop-up sets, on the other hand, are all built into a chest which opens, unfolds and reveals one setting after another, from storms at sea to icy landscapes and a sailing ship. The main characters apart from the boy are a bearded and strangely eyeless sea captain, and a mother and daughter whale. The baby whale, in particular, captivated the audience and was the only fully articulated puppet.
The audience were most captivated, however, by the set, a truly original piece of work and entirely appropriate to the show. A Heart at Sea is a sensitive show, rich in musicality and wonder, and it is good to see that there is a social story of the plot available on the company website, and that relaxed performances are planned for 14 and 22 Aug – we need more companies to follow this lead.