Review – The Man Who Planted Trees

August 15, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✭✭ Beautiful, entertaining morality tale

Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30)
Thurs 1 – Sat 16 August 2013
Review by Mark Bolsover

With simple but elegant staging and charming puppets and puppetry, Puppet State Theatre Company presents a genuinely touching and engrossing adaptation of Jean Giono’s novel.

Giono’s story is, in essence, an allegorical morality tale about value and, more specifically, the value of work: the sacrificing of self-interest and personal satisfaction to the long term social worth of the work that we might choose to do, whether or not we are remembered for it.

Drinking from the Well – The Man Who Planted Trees. Pic: Puppet Stage Theatre

Originally published in 1953, Giono’s work was ahead of its time in its treatment of ecological issues and this is beautifully adapted in the set design of the show. Issues of warfare also arise, with the protagonist participating in the conflicts of both world wars, but this material is handled sensitively.

The story tells of Elzéard Bouffier, a widowed shepherd, who lives in the arid foothills of Provence with his dog. The beneficial consequences of his life-long mission to plant a forest, seed by seed, unfold as the play progresses.

It is delivered with feeling and clarity by storyteller and puppeteer Richard Medrington, without becoming patronising to its younger audience members, and is genuinely compelling.

Medrington and fellow puppeteer Rick Conte have a great, clearly well-established chemistry from the outset. The opening sequence of dialogue builds the energy of the show and rapport with the audience extremely well. The humour here is sharp, witty and, for the most part, improvised by Conte through the role of Dog, the real star of the show, with Medrington acting as straight man.

The show is clearly aimed at children, but this easy, ready wit means it is very entertaining for their adult chaperones.

The show’s pacing is spot on. It maintains a good, even, energy throughout and the physical acting with both props and puppets is deft and very cleverly executed. The sound and lighting design are subtle and perfectly timed and placed.

The Man Who Planted Trees is a consummate piece of storytelling and physical theatre, with, by turns, charming, funny and genuinely moving performances by the two – or, as Dog would point out, three – leads.

Running time 1hour 5 mins
Run ends Fri 16 August, 2013
Daily, not Wed, 3pm.
Venue 30, The Scottish Storytelling Centre, The Netherbow, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR
Tickets from: www.edfringe.com
Company website: www.puppetstate.com

The Man Who Planted Trees tours to the Southbank, London: Thurs 22 August – Sun 1 Sept 2013.
Details on: www.southbankcentre.co.uk

ENDS

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