City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Man Who Planted Trees Review

By Justine Blundell - Posted on 19 August 2011

Fringe 2011: Men Who Planted
Show details
Puppet State Theatre Company
Running time: 
Ailie Cohen (Co-Director, Set and Puppet Builder and Designer), Richard Medrington and Rick Conte (Script), Barney Strachan (Soundscape), Esther Cohen (Poster Design), Elspeth Murray (Technician)
Rick Conte and Richard Medrington

The Man Who Planted Trees is the multi-award winning adaptation by the Puppet State Theatre Company of French author Jean Giono’s classic tale.  Although aimed primarily at adults and those over 7 years, children much younger were also deeply engaged with this inspiring tale that combined comedy and puppetry with some masterful storytelling.

This is a fictional account of the amazing transformation effected by one man’s effort to plant a forest in a desolate landscape in the foothills of the Alps. It is narrated by Jean, who first sets out to hike across these barren hills in 1910.

Feeling tired and weak after days vainly searching for water, he meets a shepherd who guides him to a deep well from which he can drink his fill. Jean stays with the shepherd for a few days and learns that he moved to this isolated region after his wife and son died, determined to spend the rest of his life cultivating a forest, tree by tree. We hear that he planted 100 trees each morning and a further 100 every afternoon. Over the next four decades Jean returns to visit the shepherd and reports on the varieties of trees, birds, wildlife and other vegetation that is now thriving in this revitalised environment.

This uplifting story, told gently and with affection by Richard Medrington as Jean, is continually interspersed with hilarious moments from Dog. Did I mention that the shepherd had a dog? Because, actually in this production the dog, played with droll and impeccable comic timing by Rick Conte, is the star of the show - laugh-out loud funny for adults and children alike.

Along with some delightful puppetry and other visual aids we were also treated to wafts of lavender and mint that gave an enhancing olfactory experience – although, after struggling through the misery of another dreich day at the festival in Edinburgh I could have done without the ‘refreshing’ rain experience where the audience was gently sprayed with a watering can.

When stories of greed and mayhem are dominating the media it is really refreshing to hear a tale of selflessness and quiet determination, of a man who sowed hope, reaped happiness and benefitted the lives of thousands of people without any thought of material reward or public accolade. This represents an hour of heart-warming entertainment for the whole family – guaranteed to leaveyou  with a smile on your face.

Show times: 5 - 21 August, 15:00