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Q&A: Richard Medrington from Leaf By Niggle


After several years delighting Fringe audiences with The Man Who Planted Trees, Puppet State Theatre return to the Storytelling Centre with a brand new show, Leaf By Niggle. We caught up with actor Richard Medrington to find out more about the play, here until Sun 28 Aug (not 10, 15, 22, 23).

When did you first read Leaf By Niggle? Did you immediately see its potential for a stage show?

I first read the story Leaf by Niggle back in 1992 and was so struck by it that I approached the Tolkien Trust and asked for permission to turn it into a puppet show. At that time the answer was a polite no. Over the next twenty years or so the story stayed with me, even seemed to pursue me at times, so in 2013 I approached the Trust again and this time they said yes! In short, the inspiration was a fascinating story with as yet unplumbed depths that I have enjoyed swimming in.

The story is often seen as an allegory of the writing process. How do you deal with periods of creative frustration?

I go for a long, solitary walk – Roslin Glen and the Pentlands are my favourite places, but anywhere I can be alone and in nature. The story emphasises the need for artists to connect with the earth, and I think this is very important – to get out of the studio or away from the desk and touch base with the physical, natural world.

The show weaves various objects and heirlooms into the story. Do you have a personal favourite item?

A miniature wooden ladder that was made by my maternal grandfather, Allan Maw, when he was a boy: it is beautifully made with tiny dowels and hinges (not from a kit) and even though it is more than a hundred years old, it is in perfect condition. I did not know my grandfather, who died when my mother was 9 years old. Like Tolkien he fought and was wounded at the Somme in 1916. The ladder has a special role to play in the story too.

The Man Who Planted Trees was a Fringe favourite for many years. What are your favourite memories from past festivals?

The lady who brought her 7-year-old son to the show last year and who told me she had seen the show 17 times!

Which Fringe shows are on your must-see list for 2016?

I’m really looking forward to seeing Mikey and Addie at Summerhall and Will Pickvance’s show, Anatomy of the Piano (for Beginners) at the Netherbow – plus the other Storytelling Centre shows (always good to support your venue-mates!). Apart from that I have a precious ticket for Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance at the Lyceum Studio and I will be keeping my ear to the ground and maybe taking a chance on some totally random shows.

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