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.