Puppet State Theatre Company return to the Scottish Storytelling Centre for this year’s Festival Fringe, with its acclaimed production of JRR Tolkien’s little-known short story, Leaf by Niggle.
I have seen this show twice, and let me tell you that both as a Tolkien lover and a theatre lover, you cannot miss it!
“Exquisite … so beautifully told … completely seductive” **** Scotsman
This solo storytelling show, created and performed by Richard Medrington, draws on Richard’s personal family history as an introduction to Tolkien’s original story. Surrounded by ladders, bicycles and heirlooms, Richard Medrington (Jean from The Man Who Planted Trees) recounts Tolkien’s miniature masterpiece with a beautiful soundtrack composed by
Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy.
“Tolkien’s lord of small things … enchanting one-man show” **** Guardian
Leaf by Niggle is considered by some to be Tolkien’s most autobiographical work, springing partly from his fear of not finishing The Lord of the Rings. In 1939, as war clouds were darkening, he woke up one morning with the story almost complete in his mind and wrote it down.
Niggle is a struggling artist who is trying to complete his magnum opus, a painting of a curious tree. He isn’t sure when he will need to set out on his journey, but he is worried that he won’t be able to finish the painting before it’s time to leave.
Leaf by Niggle is often seen as an allegory of Tolkien’s own creative process, and, to an extent, of his life. It is a tale of transformation, which examines the relationship between an artist, his creation and his community.
Richard Medrington is the artistic director of Puppet State Theatre Company and for the past eleven years the company has been touring the world with its much-lauded production of Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees. This new adaptation of Leaf by Niggle is a reflection of Richard’s long held ambition to perform a staged version of the story. In
1993, Richard gave an acclaimed one-off storytelling performance of the piece at the Carberry Festival and from then nurtured hopes of performing it to a wider audience until being granted permission twenty years later by the Tolkien Trust to stage the story fully.
“a salve on the soul” **** The List
“From the first performance last year at the Festival Theatre right through a Scottish tour and a Fringe run, the response from audiences has been amazing. The guest book filled up with glowing comments from audience members young and old. Our last performance in 2016 was for 250 members of the Tolkien Society. I approached this with understandable
trepidation, but these Tolkien aficionados absolutely loved the show. Members of the society queued for an hour and a half to buy copies of the new edition of the story, sign the guest book and tell me how much they had enjoyed the production. Comments included: “What you created is the most sublime theatrical experience I have ever had. I cried the
entire second half. You have made a work of art that pierced my soul.” And the slightly hyperbolic: “Beautiful and terrifying. The best thing I’ve seen since McKellen’s Lear.” We are so happy to have been asked back to the Netherbow Theatre at the Storytelling Centre for another run – our company’s favourite venue, where we have performed at over 20
Richard Medrington, Puppet State Theatre
“This is my first ever commission to compose for theatre and it’s a challenge and a joy to collaborate with such an accomplished creative posse. Niggle’s journey, and Richard Medrington’s beautifully personal and familial framing of it feels quite close to the bone for me, and very relevant to our times. There are so many possible ways to receive it and get
inside of it, as there are always with deep stories. But to me it’s about the fundamental human impulse to create and find meaning and beauty in life, and how duty, convention and the sheer necessity of toil can cut against this. The gap between the world as we imagine it and the world as it sometimes is – in all its reductive, mechanistic brutality – can be hard to hold in a single heart. But Niggle’s story feels hopeful nonetheless”
Take a look at the trailer!
Performed by Richard Medrington
Soundtrack composed by Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy
Directed by Andy Cannon; Lighting by Gerron Stewart; Design Support by Ailie Cohen; Movement support by Janice Parker; Stage Management by Elspeth Murray