IN THE standard Kafkaesque nightmare, the hero always finds himself trapped in a hell of red tape with no chance of escape. The difference here, in this sweet-natured puppet fantasy for the over-fives, is that fastidious Larry rather enjoys his dreary desk job.
Recalling one of Don Martin's long-faced cartoons from Mad magazine, this happy office worker taps away at his keyboard as he processes the steady flow of tickets that pop up in front of him. Such is his dedication to the task that his colleagues know to keep their distance. Larry's far too busy to break for coffee or lunch.
That's until his routine is broken. In a shocking and funny intrusion from the natural world, the next thing to pop through the slot in his desk (built from a suitcase like everything in this boxed-in world) is a bright green leaf. This call of the wild symbolises everything – beauty, freedom, imagination – that Larry has repressed. His neat-and-tidy absolutism has been challenged.
It's a fine starting point for puppeteer Ailie Cohen, performing alongside Rick Conte, to exploit the creative possibilities of her artform. Larry finds himself taken on a transformative journey from high seas to deep outer space, relinquishing control to the Quarks, a free-floating species of golden-brown suitcase dwellers, who have taken it upon themselves to bring balance to the lopsided universe.
If you find yourself with a lacklustre star, these are the creatures who will restore its sparkle. Where you encounter conflict, they will send a package of love and hugs. And for a man bereft of creativity, they will provide adventure.
Co-written by Lewis Hetherington and with autumn dates already lined up at London's Unicorn, The Secret Life of Suitcases is a quietly inventive tale of discovery in which the good guy confronts his fears and comes out even better.