Edinburgh-based Puppet State Theatre Company premieres a staged version of JRR Tolkien’s little-known short story, Leaf by Niggle. This storytelling show, created and performed by Richard Medrington, draws on Richard’s personal family history as an introduction to Tolkien’s original story.

Surrounded by ladders, bicycles and heirlooms, Richard Medrington (Jean from The Man Who Planted Trees) recounts Tolkien’s miniature masterpiece with a soundtrack composed by Karine Polwart and Michael John McCarthy.

Leaf by Niggle is considered by some to be Tolkien’s most autobiographical work, springing from his fear of not finishing The Lord of the Rings. In 1939, as war clouds were darkening, he woke up one morning with the story almost complete in his mind and wrote it down:

There was once a little man called Niggle, who had a long journey to make. He did not want to go, indeed the whole idea was distasteful to him; but he could not get out of it.
Niggle is a struggling artist who is trying to complete his magnum opus, a painting of a curious tree. He isn’t sure when he will need to set out on his journey, but he is worried that he won’t be able to finish the painting before it’s time to leave.

Leaf by Niggle is often seen as an allegory of Tolkien’s own creative process, and, to an extent, of his life. It is a tale of transformation, which examines the relationship between an artist, his creation and his community.

Richard Medrington is the artistic director of Puppet State Theatre and for the past nine years the company has been touring the world with their much lauded production of Jean Giono’s The Man Who Planted Trees. The new adaptation of Leaf by Niggle is a reflection of Richard’s long held ambition to perform a staged version of the story. In 1993, Richard gave an acclaimed one-off story telling performance of the piece at the Carberry Festival and has nurtured hopes of performing it to a wider audience ever since. The company is delighted to have received permission from the Tolkien Trust to bring the story to life.

Suitable for adults and young people aged 10 and over. Leaf by Niggle is on in the Great Hall on Sunday 12 November. To find out more and to book tickets, please visit the event page

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