There are moments of arresting visual poetry in this tender new play about dealing with grown-up things with a child’s eye. Intrepid Ensemble have crafted a gentle tale of a young boy’s experience of his father’s depression, when the jellyfish comes to stay.
In this company-devised piece, eight-year-old Tom lives by the ocean in Wales, with his mother and his father, an author whose stream of bedtime stories has dwindled to a trickle. Tom is waiting for an ending to the tale of brave Captain Figgins.
Mixing puppetry and lo-fi staging, which sees cardboard boxes and polythene sheets transformed into rooms, cars, coves and undulating sea, this show’s undoubted centre-piece is the luminescent jellyfish, a magical concoction of household items. Director Matthew Woodford makes much of this puppet, as it trails across the children in the audience.
Here, the jellyfish is a metaphor, an intrusive presence that Tom wants to banish from his family’s life. Only problem is that the clarity of Tom’s journey sometimes gets lost in the stylised movement. The show’s swooping sound design verges on strong-arming our emotional engagement with it, as well as being too loud – occasionally the soundtrack almost drowns out the cast. This production works best in its quieter moments, in its lyrical simplicity.
But the cast work well together and there is something resonant and true about Jellyfish. Intrepid Ensemble have brought an undercurrent of the realities of life to the stage – with sensitivity and thoughtfulness.