Edinburgh Fringe 2022
This multi award-winning adaptation of Jean Giono’s classic environmental tale by Puppet State Theatre Company has been touring internationally for the past 14 years, with repeat appearances at the Sydney Opera House and Off-Broadway. A unique blend of comedy, puppetry and inspiring storytelling.
The Man Who Planted Trees is adapted by Puppet State Theatre Company from Jean Giono’s classic environmental tale of the same name. It’s an interesting story about a caring shepherd from France who plants trees acorn by acorn, one at a time. He is patient and this virtue is a message that comes out in the end.
Two storytellers tell this tale as they arrange the attractive set bathed in distinctive natural textured hessian on the stage. As the story develops one performer is mainly a puppeteer while the other narrates – and they both narrate and bring the puppets to life at different times.
Before the story begins the performers have a clever way to build rapport with the audience and before long everyone of every age is engrossed and entertained. Richard Medrington begins by narrating the story and interacts with the audience flawlessly with sincerity and a touch of mischief in his compelling voice and facial reactions.
The shepherd has a dog and this is a fascinating part of the show because the shaggy dog, played by a puppet has an interesting and lively personality that adds a lot to the flow and energy throughout.
These puppets are exquisite and they all blend in to the environmental theme of the story in design and colour. For example, the man who plants trees is a lovely puppet (who speaks french and english) wearing a hat, hessian suit and has a moustache. Other puppets are glove style and there are some long rod puppets waved in the air, very effectively.
During the show there is a delightful complicity with the audience based on the happenings on and off the stage – and some quick thinking improvised moments which are all enjoyable and add to the fun. At the heart, this is a story with an ecology theme, however, this is never pushed.
Additional sections of the story include a man with bee hives, a government official, saving the environment for the future, assorted (and very cute) animals that pass by, and an excellent yet very simple explanation of water conservation, drought and rain.
While the message of this story is patience and caring about the environment and ecology of where we live, there is much fun to be had watching this meaningful story unfold. It is incredibly well crafted and thought out with a variety of storytelling techniques that will appeal to all ages.
Puppet State Theatre’s adaptation of Giono’s charming story, creative presentation, and Medrington’s masterful storytelling meld together in a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening show imaginatively brought to life with beautiful sets, props and, of course, puppets.
Puppet State Theatre Company has presented this show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and if you or anyone on your family has not yet seen it, then go – it is one of the best storytelling with puppetry shows around and stands up to repeated viewings because of it’s excellence.