April 24th, 2009

theatre, muppets

The Man Who Planted Trees

On Wednesday, I went to the Unicorn Theatre to see The Man Who Planted Trees.

It's aimed at children, but is perfectly suitable for big kids too (in fact we seemed to outnumber the little ones). *hmmm_tea may be a bit of fan of puppets and doesn't really care what age he is*

The story is based on the story by Jean Giono, who came up with the character of Elzeard Bouffier when asked by the Reader's Digest to write for a feature about "The Most Extraordinary Person I Have Ever Known" (they didn't print it as they didn't want a fictional story).

The title does provide a really good plot summary, as commented on early in the show. The puppets are just adorable, especially the dog, who brings a huge amount of comedy to the play through really simple jokes.

The set is really cleverly designed with the trees doubling up and fans to waft insence around the theatre at appropriate moments (the play incorporates all the senses) for example. The puppets are simple dolls or hand puppets, but they're so sweet that the lack of complicated mechanics is unnoticable.

One of the things I noticed early on with the hand-puppets (the dog being the main one) was that the puppeter Rick Conte, wasn't a ventriloquist and just moved his lips the whole time. However, he was an excellent performer and as he didn't speak as himself at all, it didn't take long for his words to belong to the dog.

It's a fun play to see, although try to avoid sitting in one of the wet parts of the forest. It's currently showing at the Unicorn until this weekend, other locations can be found on their website (including the Edinburgh fringe, Brighton fringe, the Junction in Cambridge, the clocktower in Croydon and locations around the country).