Writer: JRR Tolkien
Director: Andy Cannon
Reviewer: R G Balgray
Textbooks offering learned discourses on theories of narrative abound, but it is worth remembering that storytelling is something to which we all can relate. In Richard Medrington’s one man show in the Studio at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, he takes Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle – a seminal but little-known story, part fable and part metaphor (both for the creative process, and for his own life as he perceived it) – and turns it into a simple but charming theatrical experience.
In the process, of course, he includes an hommage to Tolkien and some relevant biographical details. However, the key element is a dramatised reading of the text itself, interspersed with Medrington’s personal experiences, and details of his family’s history. All of these punctuated by an atmospheric soundtrack. Sounds straightforward? Deceptively so. A simple set represents the writer’s study, but also memories of the performer’s family, as freighted by the
A simple set represents the writer’s study, but also memories of the performer’s family, as freighted by the objets scattered around the stage. As the story builds, these acquire added significance: a model ladder constructed by a great-grandfather comes to represent part of Niggle’s journey; a silk shawl becomes a green hillside. Central to Tolkien’s fable is what happens to Niggle the painter. As he waits for some journey to take place, he half-heartedly helps others while grumbling about how they delay the completion of his masterpiece. “A tale of disappointment” is how Richard Medrington introduces the piece, but it is when Niggle finally makes his journey that its much deeper significance is suggested. As a sympathetic, personable narrator, Medrington allows the deeper truths lurking behind its simple facade to resonate. As such, although designated as suitable for an audience of “Ages 10 +”, it could be said, in exploring the fundamental role played by story in our personal and imaginative lives, it will appeal to the child in us all. At only 75 minutes, a prospective audience might expect this performance to seem rather slight, however, in this case, Richard Medrington makes us realise that less can definitely be more.
Reviewed on 16th April 2016 | Image: Contributed