Leaf by Niggle

Sep 7 2017 | By More

★★★★☆    Imaginative

Scottish Storytelling Centre: Fri 4 – Sun 27 Aug 2017
Review by Dylan Taylor

Richard Medrington and the Puppet State Theatre Company bring a charming staging of Tolkien’s minor work Leaf by Niggle to the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Medrington plays the part of the storyteller, narrating the original story from beginning to end with help only from the old World War II-era props that surround him. All of the objects have been taken from his own family’s storage, he notes in his introduction to the play, adding a layer of authenticity to the old stepladder, nurse’s uniform, and bits and bobs that play a part in the narrative.

Richard Medrington. Pic Brian Hartley.

The narrative itself follows the story of Niggle, an amateur painter who specialises in painting individual leaves but who hopes someday to paint his masterpiece: an entire tree. But his talents go unappreciated by his neighbour, the stuffy and practical Parish, who is humorously brought to life by Medrington’s sharp and condescending impersonation.

Andy Cannon’s deft direction ensures that every transition in the story is handled smoothly, and brings out Medrington’s knack for breathing life into the mundane. Medrington’s storytelling abilities are such that even when he interrupts the tale to briefly describe the real story of the bicycle prop, it does not feel out-of-place.

The lighting effects help along the storytelling by illuminating different parts of the stage. The brightening of the lights to represent Niggle’s noticing of the hot sun, and the use of the lighting to focus on a specific part of the stage in an important final shot, are particularly strong moments. Designer Ailie Cohen gives the stage an aged, cozy appearance and brings to Medrington’s costume a fittingly Tolkienesque look.

A warm and endearing original score by Karine Polwart and MJ McCarthy makes vivid some of the story’s more uplifting moments, and gives an added power to Medrington’s scene-painting.

From Tolkien’s basic little tale, this production creates a world that, even without any orcs or wizards, is very much worth spending a stretch of time in.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30), 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR
Friday 4 – Monday 28 August 2017
Even dates only: 5pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/leaf-by-niggle
Company website: http://www.puppetstate.com/
Facebook: @puppetstate
Twitter: @puppetstatethtr



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