Leaf by Niggle

Leaf by Niggle is a little-known allegory by J.R.R Tolkien, beautifully brought to life by Puppet State Theatre. Unfortunately if you’re expecting a tale of hobbits, orcs or elves then you’re in for disappointment. Likewise if you’re hoping for a puppet show; but, as our narrator Richard Medrington points out, that’s pretty fitting for a story all about disappointment.

It’s a lovely allegory for Tolkien’s own struggle to complete The Lord of the Rings and the show’s creative team have effectively and unobtrusively incorporated their own tales of artistic talent cut short and left unrecognised

The story follows the eponymous Niggle as his attempts to complete his artistic masterpiece are routinely interrupted and thwarted by meddlesome neighbours and faceless powers beyond his control. You see, Niggle is excellent at painting leaves, it’s just painting trees that’s his issue and no one seems to recognise his talents or the value of his art. It’s a lovely allegory for Tolkien’s own struggle to complete The Lord of the Rings and the show’s creative team have effectively and unobtrusively incorporated their own tales of artistic talent cut short and left unrecognised.

The show is staged with charming simplicity and every object onstage is imbued with double meanings, belonging both to Medrington’s ancestry and autobiography as well as serving the plot of Tolkien’s enchanting tale. The warm lighting design and subtle sound design places us in Tolkien’s study and sets the steady, unhurried pace for the rest of the show before moving on to conjure up the fantastical worlds of Niggle’s imagination. However these components would be meaningless without Medrington’s stellar performance, he has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand as he outlines his family’s artistic tendencies and ponders what could have been if their talents had been discovered and nurtured. It’s with remarkable ease that he slips between characters, creating an amazingly detailed portrait of each individual by the simplest of means.

Leaf by Niggle is a show that’s sure to creep up on you and, much like the protagonist, you’ll see that it’s a little hidden gem.

Reviews by Liam Rees

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

In 1939, Tolkien was despairing of ever bringing his great work The Lord of the Rings to a conclusion. One morning he woke up with the tale of Niggle, a struggling artist on a curious journey, complete in his mind and wrote it down. The story is often seen as an allegory of the writer's own creative process. Surrounded by ladders, bicycles and heirlooms, Richard Medrington (Jean from Puppet State’s The Man Who Planted Trees) recounts Tolkien’s miniature masterpiece, with original score by Karine Polwart and MJ McCarthy. www.madeinscotlandshowcase.com