Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh – until 26 August 2019
Guest reviewer: Amy Quinn
In a world full of fear and worry, we all need a reminder that there’s still hope. Luckily, in The Man Who Planted Trees at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, two storytellers and their puppets are here to give us just that.
This is Puppet State Theatre Company’s adaptation of the short story by Jean Giono about the solitary French shepherd Elzéard Bouffier, who single-handedly creates a forest by planting his acorns when he realises his area of Provence is dying – and the hardships that come as the forest grows.
Along the way we meet a lively, hilarious little dog and a nasty gentleman. Like the shepherd, they are both represented by puppets. Rick Conte, who brings these characters to life does so in a way that is both believable and comedic. He imitates the mannerisms of an excitable dog so well that you forget that the dog is simply being controlled by hand.
The story is told by Jean Giono himself, played by Richard Medrington whose quick-witted joking and captivating storytelling engages both adults and children. Medrington also handles such dark topics as death and the two world wars amazingly well for a young audience. He does not sugar coat it too much and still getting the message across without it being too complicated or frightening.
What aids the two in their storytelling are the simple yet creative set and props. Colourful birds are waved over the audience and trees are used to waft the smell of lavender and mint around the room. It helps create an idea of what the atmosphere and environment of the shepherd’s home in Provence is like – to the point where you imagine, for a second, that you are breathing in the French country air.
The show is tied together with an important and memorable message that may leave you with a tear in your eye as it reassures you and makes you see life from a different, more positive perspective.
For a show that lasts an hour and 5 minutes, this is truly magical. The message of hope is one that you are relieved is being passed down to younger generations in a time when we so desperately need it.
Running time: One hour and 5 minutes (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR (Venue 30)
Monday 12 – Monday 26 August 2019
Daily (not Mon 19): 4pm.
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/man-who-planted-trees
Elzeard Bouffier. Pic: Puppet State Theatre