Leaves, Trees and New Growth

by Puppet State in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

We did it
On 22nd September 2020 we successfully raised £6,431 ( + est. £890.00 Gift Aid ) with 228 supporters in 35 days

Help us find ways to keep telling stories like 'The Man Who Planted Trees' & 'JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle'

by Puppet State in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

 New stretch target

If we meet our target, we will use any extra support you give us to take forward our plans to make beautiful videos from some stories we have held dear for some time. We've been dreaming up ways of illustrating and animating tales using old toy-theatre techniques. It's something that will stretch the existing writing, design, puppetry and improvisation skills of our team and we are excited about having some really charming little movies to transport you from your familiar world and bring you safely back with something memorable to hold on to. 


Audience feedback for 'JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle'

Claiming Rewards

Please use the yellow “Select Reward” button if you want to view a show - rather than the red ”Donate” button. 

Also, please be aware that we send out links to view the shows to supporters as soon as we can. The process is not automatic - please bear with us, particularly if you are in a different time zone. And sometimes our emails may find their way into your spam or junk folders so please have a look there if your ticket hasn't shown up yet.

NB Both Q&A events have already happened but we're planning other live interactions for people who claim this reward.

Richard Medrington and Rick Conte in The Man Who Planted Trees

'The Man Who Planted Trees' with Richard Medrington and Rick Conte

We Miss You!

Last year at the Fringe we had the pleasure of performing both of our shows - 'The Man Who Planted Trees' and 'JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle' and in between Richard performed 'Leaf by Niggle' for 400 avid Tolkien fans at Tolkien 2019 in Birmingham. 

Richard Medrington in Leaf by Niggle at Tolkien 2019

Richard Medrington in ‘JRR Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle’ at Tolkien 2019. Photo credit: Tobias Ekrich.

This would have been our 13th Fringe with 'The Man Who Planted Trees' at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Having had our Spring tour of 14 venues across Scotland, Wales and England cancelled right at the start of the COVID lockdown - and dealing with the impact of upheaval, illness and bereavement - we have been thinking a lot about what the future holds and how we can keep connected with what is most important.


Dog from 'The Man Who Planted Trees'

The fact is that we deeply miss the magic of an auditorium or a village hall with the house lights dimmed and the murmurs of an eager audience falling silent in anticipation of enjoying a wonderful story. 

We look back wistfully on the ability to waft the fragrances of France into your faces as we do in 'The Man Who Planted Trees' or to invite you on stage after the show to admire the amazing bicycle that features in 'Leaf by Niggle'. Meeting the audience after a performance and chatting, shaking hands, hugging old friends and inviting you to sign the guest book ... these are all parts of our Fringe experience that we mourn this year.

Meeting the audience after Leaf by Niggle

Meeting audiences  at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Underlying all this of course is the stark fact that the company simply has no income while we are not able to entertain you in the way we know best.

So we are taking the opportunity to use this platform that the Fringe has kindly offered us (without the usual fees) to step out and meet you with our hat, so to speak, on the floor.

Guestbook praise for Leaf by Niggle.

Help Us Share Stories and Plant Ideas

As you can see from our rewards, we have some fun stuff to offer you so please don't think that we're asking for something for nothing but we are looking to raise £5,000 so that we can: 

  • Cover the costs of filming 'Leaf by Niggle' at the Scottish Storytelling Centre's beautiful Netherbow Theatre. This includes: hiring high definition cameras and an amazing cameraman/editor and fees for team. 
  • Spend some creative time as a team this autumn on a project to tell some exciting tales from the life of John Muir, Scottish-born pioneer of the American conservation movement. We are budgeting for fees for our creative team of 3 plus admin and outside eye input in the autumn plus materials that will help us make and present some captivating online storytelling.  

Following this campaign we will dedicate at least one woodland area at Geordie's Wood with the Woodland Trust. 

The Woodland Trust

We have been members of The Woodland Trust for many years and have collaborated on a number of projects that involved audiences enjoying 'The Man Who Planted Trees' and also engaging in some literal, actual tree planting. In 2018 we took part in some tree planting at Dreghorn Woods, Scotland's Centenary Wood commemorating lives lost in the 1st World War. And in 2007 we performed in a scout tent on a windswept hillside at Yetts O'Muckhart where young people and their families planted trees at Geordie's Wood. It is here at Glen Devon Woods that we plan to dedicate a woodland area and continue our interest in supporting native woodlands.

The Man Who Planted Trees at Geordie's Wood

And if that sounds too sensible, you could instead imagine your donation going towards: 

  • Helping pay for Dog's online course to become a pilates instructor and/or 
  • Getting Puppet State's admin monkey Oswald some much-needed time away from the office.

Does Dog Really Do Pilates?

Dog who helps tell the story of The Man Who Planted Trees has attributed his phenomenal longevity variously to yoga (sometimes hot mountain yoga), pilates, zumba dancing, oatmeal, and clean living. He is a sports fan with a keen interest in tennis and would willingly sustain injury while undertaking winter sports if it helped his friend Jean. He really does have a purple leotard as a souvenir of that time that he auditioned for Cats. 

Dog in his purple leotard

Who is Oswald? 

If you haven't met Oswald before you may like to see how excited he was about Puppet State's 2017 North American tour of 'The Man Who Planted Trees' which included a run at the Smith Center in Las Vegas. The incident with the bookmarks took place at the Box Office of the Scottish Storytelling Centre last year. This happened about the same time as the incident in the booth. Before he joined Puppet State, Oswald appeared on the West End and doesn't like us to forget about his high-brow board-treading days.

Oswald in The Libertine with actor Will Barton. Photo credit Alastair Muir.

Oswald in The Libertine with actor Will Barton. Photo credit Alastair Muir.

The Man Who Planted Trees

Perhaps you haven't seen any of the over 1,800 performances of our puppetry and storytelling adaptation of Jean Giono's classic fable of a shepherd who dedicates forty years to regenerating a barren area of the South of France. With help from his faithful dog - played in our production by Dog - Elzéard Bouffier transforms the landscape. Richard Medrington as Jean narrates the story while Rick Conte, his colleague, brings wit and unforgettable charm to the production, beautifully designed by the wonderful Ailie Cohen ("The woman who made me what I am today" Dog). 

Since premiering the show in 2006, we have played in many wonderful venues from the actual windswept hillside (above) to repeat performances at the Sydney Opera House and New York's Lincoln Center Education. We've made great friends throughout our touring years and are so lucky that this story has had a long life. May it continue!

“IT IS VERY, very rare to find something that appeals as effortlessly to children and adults as this magical show.”
Scotsman ★★★★★

“Laughs, heartbreak, war, regeneration, scented breezes, sparkling wit, the best dog puppet ever. Perfect for children and grown-ups. Terrific.”

“Expertly put together and extremely entertaining … This is just a wonderful, enchanting piece of theatre for children or for adults.” British Theatre Guide ★★★★★

“Medrington’s voice is lilting and perfectly modulated, creating tension and pathos. Tempered by Conte’s jaunty puppet work with the dog, this is a multi-sensual and visually witty hour of children’s theatre.” The Stage 

“If you want a feel good production that will warm your heart, go and see this – five stars for sure!”
Fest ★★★★★

“As well as its clever presentation, I would give it five stars for side-splitting comedy as a highlight of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival" Aussie Theatre ★★★★★

JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle

We first staged this one-man production in 2016 but the seed of the idea for the adaptation began 20 years before that. You'll find out from Richard Medrington all about it if you watch the screening - and even more if you claim the Q&A reward which features Tolkien expert and Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children's Literature at the University of Glasgow, Dr. Dimitra Fimi. If you're new to it, the gist of Tolkien's miniature masterpiece is that Niggle is a painter with a long journey to undertake. He desperately wants to finish his painting of a tree before he leaves but is frustrated by interruptions and demands from his annoying neighbour Mr Parish. Tolkien wrote the story while he was struggling to complete 'Lord of the Rings'. It's a gem of a story which, we think, carries even more meaning now than it did at the start of this year as we've all been through the experience of lockdown and can relate more clearly to certain aspects of Niggle's adventures. 

The production features a beautiful soundtrack created by folk legend Karine Polwart and award-winning composer and theatre sound designer MJ McCarthy. Our astute director is Andy Cannon and the wonderful Alice McGrath of Red Bridge Arts helped us in so many ways to get the show on the road. 

“Tolkien’s lord of small things … enchanting one-man show” ★★★★ Guardian.
“exquisite … so beautifully told … completely seductive” ★★★★ Scotsman.
“intricately layered telling of Tolkien’s short story.” ★★★★ The Stage.
“Absence of orcs can’t spoil this wizard show.” ★★★★ The Times.
“vividly evocative soundscore by Karine Polwart” ★★★★ The Herald.
“shines with style.” ★★★★ Edinburgh Guide.
“a salve on the soul” ★★★★ The List.
“an exceptional story teller … difficult to fault” ★★★★ Young Perspectives.
“a simple but charming theatrical experience” ★★★★ The Reviews Hub.
“rich and complex … universal and timeless” ★★★★ TV Bomb.
“If you use even a tiny amount of your imagination, a picture forms in your head and then, a story starts forming too. I really really loved it. I would give it 5 stars.” ★★★★★ All Edinburgh Theatre, Junior Review


We have been amazed and delighted by the response to our appeal and are feeling very grateful for everyone’s support. You can see from the video above that we are short staffed at the moment. Just to let you know that the system for sending out thanks for donations and links for the various rewards is not automated, so it may take a little while for Oswald (or whoever is screen watching) to send you the relevant email. We apologise if this upsets viewing plans, and we will do our best to get the links out quickly. Also if you accidentally click on “donation” when you meant to "claim this reward”, we can easily arrange a refund or find some way to get you the thing you particularly wanted. Lastly, you may notice that 'The Man Who Planted Trees' live Q&A has already happened. The system won’t let us remove this from the rewards for some reason, so we will be arranging another similar event in the next few weeks for anyone who has chosen this as part of a bundle. Hope this makes sense! Thanks again from all of us at Puppet State.

Puppet State Theatre Company is a charity regulated by the Scottish Charities Regulator (SC040201) with a focus on the advancement of education, the advancement of the arts, heritage, culture or science and the advancement of environmental protection or improvement.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£1 or more

Whatever you can afford

A few quid in Dog's basket. A contribution to his sausage roll fund. He will love you forever.

£10 or more

Watch 'The Man Who Planted Trees'

Filmed at the 2019 Fringe - and in far higher quality than the footage previously filmed way back in 2007 - this footage captures the live atmosphere of our favourite venue, the Scottish Storytelling Centre. All the ups and downs of the efforts of Elzéard Bouffier - and his faithful dog, Dog - to bring hope to a barren landscape. Sadly no smellivision but we hope the story itself will evoke the smell of the French countryside. View till 21 Sept.

£10 or more

Watch 'JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle'

In agreement with the Tolkien Trust, we are offering access for 1 week only to a filmed performance of our adaptation of 'JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle'. Filmed in August 2020 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre following social distancing guidelines, this footage brings you up close to the objects and artefacts that inspired performer Richard Medrington to weave Tolkien's miniature masterpiece with his own family's stories. View from 25-31 August

£15 or more

'The Man Who Planted Trees' AND 'Leaf by Niggle'

Access to view The Man Who Planted Trees from 21st Aug - 21st Sept and JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle from 25th until 31st August. We know many of you have seen these shows several times - some have even worn out your vintage 'The Man Who Planted Trees' DVDs. Now you can watch both these gems again and again from the comfort of your own home!

£18 or more

'The Man Who Planted Trees' & Live Post-Show Q&A

Watch The Man Who Planted Trees, filmed at the 2019 Fringe, along with an online audience and stay for some live post-show chat with seasoned performers Richard Medrington and Rick Conte who have been touring together with this production since 2006. Your chance to put them on the spot and ask about their experience of traveling the world and living this evergreen story over the last 14 years. Screening 21st August 7pm, Q&A 8.15pm on Zoom.

£20 or more

20 of 50 claimed

'JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle' & Live Q&A

Along with an online audience, watch JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle, filmed under social-distancing guidelines at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and stay for some live post-show discussion with performer Richard Medrington. Featuring guest Tolkien expert, Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children's Literature and Co-Director, Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, Dr Dimitra Fimi. Screening 7pm 25th August 2020, Q&A 8.30pm.

£30 or more

'Trees' and 'Leaf' with Live Q&A Double Bill

Get the full experience of watching both shows and also participate in 'The Man Who Planted Trees' with Live Q&A on 21st and 'JRR Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle' on 25th with continued access until 31st August. Get your fill of inspiring storytelling and insider insights with this bumper reward.

£40 or more

2 of 5 claimed

Rare Book Collectors' Special

The very rare first printing of Leaf by Niggle in June 2016 said that our premiere was at the "Edinburgh Festival Theatre". This was corrected in the second printing to “Festival Theatre Edinburgh”. Future collectors will want the one with the mistake! Comes with a signed, first edition copy of 'Sea Above, Sky Below', the novel Richard mentions in the introduction to the show and was inspired to complete by re-reading Leaf by Niggle.

£50 or more

Generosity of Spirit

There's nothing in it for you at all except knowing that you're following your heart and reaching towards the future with us during this time of uncertainty.

£150 or more

3 of 20 claimed

Personalised Message from Dog or Oswald

Mark a special occasion, friendship or show your thanks to your family or colleagues for all they've put up with lately with a personalised message from Dog from 'The Man Who Planted Trees' or our admin monkey Oswald to keep or share. And if you claim this reward you also get access to the other viewing experiences and Q&A involvement.

£500 or more

1 of 2 claimed

Bespoke Puppet State Online Masterclass

Tap into the amazing skills embodied in the Puppet State Theatre Company team and enjoy an online workshop experience for you and up to 10 other adults. We will meet online to discern your interests in puppetry, storytelling or creative writing and deliver a zoom workshop with follow up package to suit your needs.

£1,000 or more

0 of 2 claimed

Personalised Post-Lockdown Performance

Bring the magic of live theatre, Tolkien's inimitable storytelling and Richard Medrington's fireside manner to your large living room or other suitable venue and enchant your guests with a live performance of JRR Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle within 50 miles of Edinburgh with up to 30 guests within COVID-19 safeguards at the time of the show.

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