The Tin Forest Puppet Theatre Experience, South Rotunda Glasgow, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
National Theatre of Scotland
Graham McLaren(director and designer), Gavin Glover(associate director and designer),
Iain Heggie(dramaturg), Rebecca Hamilton(associate designer), Kai Fischer(lighting designer), Matt Padden (sound designer), The Glasgow School of Art's Digital Design Studio(video mapping and design), Philippa Tomlin(associate artist)Peter Dibdin (photographer), Michael John McCarthy (musical director)
Darren Brownlie, Stephen Clyde, Peter Collins, Angela Darcy, John Kazek, Harry Ward (performers)Rebekah Lumsden (additional puppetry)
Annie Grace, Signy Jakobsdotter, Neil McDermott, Gav Prentice (musicians)
Sarah Miele, Laura Cork, Zinnie Oberski (aerial artists from All or Nothing Aerial Dance)
Running time

The metamorphosis of the South Rotunda on the Clydeside from long vacant 19th century building to a surreal and magical space hosting The Tin Forest Puppet Theatre Experience is the perfect metaphor for Glasgow’s regeneration.

The affirming children’s story book that inspired this ambitious NTS project is The Tin Forest by Helen Ward with its beautiful illustrations by Wayne Anderson. It tells the story of a sad old man who lives in a house surrounded by mountains of junk. Every day he takes on the overwhelming task of sorting through other people’s unwanted stuff, all the while dreaming of forests, plants, birds and animals. When he decides to build his own trees and birds out of scrap metal, the task seems doomed but nature wins out and the wee man ends up living in a real paradise.

This intimate and breath-taking experience created by Graham McLaren and Gavin Glover starts with groups of up to ten folk at a time being led into a gorgeous Art Deco style corridor by a stylish and silent red pill box hatted Bell Boy (Darren Brownlie.) The story of the Tin Forest is then narrated in a way too fabulous to spoil! Suffice to say it is in English but read by a Scots voice. From there we are invited into the old man’s house where the tale is told again, this time in Glasgow Scots. The old man’s world of junk is reflected inside with stacks of wireless sets (in the old sense!), bird cages, companion sets and clocks in his neatly crowded living room.

In his work shop, we witness his attempts at creating metal ‘hingmies’ by copying real ‘hingmies’. We see him go from hope to despair as his efforts fail, with his gestures and speech sensitively created by the puppeteers. His story’s narration is continued in another corridor by a glamorous star of German cabaret (Angela Darcy), aided by brilliantly created miniature scenes to take the tale to its next stage. Discreetly, Patsy Cline sings her classic song Is that all there is? in the background.

Then, symbolic of the tremendous sense of renewal that is happening in the old man’s life, we move up and up to a light, airy, open space under the Rotunda’s dome. There, graceful acrobatics on sheaths of cloth are performed against a giant projection of a quiet remote Scottish landscape to the sounds of a series of folk serenades to Glasgow as the audience members do silent clapping while lazing on beanbags.

This heart- warming and wonderfully immersive piece of theatre from the National Theatre of Scotland is part of a far reaching cultural programme linked to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

With smell of the Clyde salting the nostrils, a miraculous sun splitting the skies, and smiling promenaders on what Glasgow actor Alex Norton describes as the “Dan Dare” style riverside, it is not hard to see a real Tin Forest sprouting all around. Glesga toun is sporting a new goun - and flourishing!

Age suitability 8+
24 July -03 August
2pm -6pm