MANIPULATE Festival announce 2021 hybrid programme

MANIPULATE Festival announce 2021 hybrid programme

EAT ME by Snap Elastic / credit: Brian Hartley

Puppet Animation Scotland reveals a mix of digital and outdoor works, including a multi-city kinetic sculpture artwalk and an international celebration of womxn animators

Puppet Animation Scotland's festival of visual theatre, MANIPULATE Festival, returns this winter from Thu 21 Jan–Sun 21 Feb. Widely-admired for their highly-innovative programming, MANIPULATE had already planned their live programme for 2021 when the pandemic took hold and lockdown restrictions came into force across Scotland earlier this year. Nevertheless, the festival team and contributing artists worked quickly to adapt to these new circumstances, and have now announced a mix of works taking place in outdoor and digital spaces, thus allowing audiences to experience the magic and wonder of visual theatre, puppetry and animation wherever they are.

One particular first for the festival is the multi-city visual storytelling trail made up of kinetic sculptures, Restless Worlds. Starting at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre (21–24 Jan), before moving to locations across the capital's city centre (27 Jan–1 Feb), then Aberdeen (4–10 Feb) and Glasgow (13–21 Feb), the installation tells stories of crisis and isolation, but also connection and wonder. The eight featured works in Restless Worlds, brought to life using motors and screens, include Shona Reppe's works of repair via the Japanese art of Kintsugi; Guy Bishop's vending machine of COVID policies; Chell Young's exploration of misinformation around the climate emergency; a collaboration between author Heather Parry and Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre; Jessica Innes' animated film about an elderly man's solitude; and many more.

MANIPULATE Festival announce 2021 hybrid programme

Unboxed / credit: Andre Wirsig

Meanwhile, MANIPULATE's digital programme will run from 27 Jan–7 Feb, with 15 events featuring artists both homegrown and international, and running the gamut across the art forms of puppetry, animation, aerials and much more. International highlights include a digital preview of Fringe favourite Manual Cinema's The End of TV, an exploration of the American Dream set in a '90s Rust Belt city, as told through '70s R&B-inspired art pop songs. Berlin-based puppeteer Ariel Doron will be presenting his work of minimalist puppetry, Boxed, which centres upon one lonely man and his attempt to engage with the outside world, while Ukwanda Puppetry and Design Collective's The Lonely Sailor Weather Report explores various facets of an amphibious lifestyle.

British visual artistry similarly makes a strong showing in this year's programme, which includes experimental theatre company Snap Elastic bringing their work of 'consensual cannibalism' to a digital stage in EAT ME; as well as Sita Pieraccini's Crunch, a companion to her 2017 work Bird, which responds to the social isolation brought on by the pandemic and the solace to be found in the natural world. Cabaret collective LARDS similarly builds off their 2020 work Draculala in their latest music video, Drackattack, while theater maker Sarah Cosgrove makes her MANIPULATE debut in Today I Bake, which riffs off the tale of Rumpelstiltskin.

Audiences will also get the chance to take a glimpse behind the curtain of various works-in-progress, including Tashi Gore's The Yellow Canary,and the latest project from Glaswegian visual theatremakers MHz and circus artist Hannah Finn, titled [dream]ENGINE offline memory processor.

MANIPULATE Festival announce 2021 hybrid programme

The Lonely Sailor Weather Report

Puppet Animation Scotland will also be partnering once more with the Edinburgh Short Film Festival to bring back their showcase of award-winning international short films. Centred around themes of isolation and connection – particularly poignant given the year we're having – ANIMATED HIGHLIGHTS: 2021 will feature works by animators from Slovenia, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, USA, New Zealand and the UK, with one particular highlight being Edinburgh Short Film Festival's 2020 winner for Best Animated Film, Nataszna Cetner's NIGEL.

Furthermore, an exciting new addition to MANIPULATE's animation strand is their womxn-led showcase of stop-frame and VFX work, Animated Womxn. Supported by Animated Woman UK, Scotland (AWUK) and the PANIMATION Network, the showcase will run alongside a series of talks and workshops, including a creative panel discussion with five artists on the Animated Womxn programme, and a Drink 'n' Draw with PANIMATION workshop, wherein participants will create new stories and explore how gender stereotypes can be challenged through character development.

MANIPULATE Festival announce 2021 hybrid programme

The End of TV by Manual Cinema

'In the challenging circumstances that the pandemic has thrown up for our sector, the immediate priority for myself and the Puppet Animation Scotland team was finding a way to generate work for as many artists as we could,' says Dawn Taylor, CEO and Artistic Director of Puppet Animation Scotland. 'Commissioning, hosting installations and digital theatre - all these represent uncharted territory for Puppet Animation Scotland, but we have been overwhelmed by the creativity and ingenuity of artists in meeting this brief.

'It's clear that there are challenges to come for us as a society this winter, and so we also wanted to create something exciting and concrete that audiences can put in their diaries and look forward to. We're thrilled to be able to keep providing boundary-pushing creative experiences through MANIPULATE in 2021.'

MANIPULATE Festival will run from Thu 21 Jan–Sun 21 Feb. For more information about the programme, visit

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