Interview: Simon Hart, artistic director of the Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival

Simon Hart, artistic director of the Manipulate Visual Theatre Festival - interview

Some highlights from the 2012 theatre and puppetry festival's programme

What can we expect from this year’s Manipulate programme?
A great festival with an eclectic international mix: of stylish and sophisticated object theatre, digital projections, animations – and lots of water – in the Theatre Sans SoucisHamletmachine; a beautifully charming and bizarre family of rod puppets with their very wild and priapic dog in Invisible Thread’s Plucked; powerful and theatrical images of desperation and loneliness as two 19th century Polar explorers lose their way both physically and mentally in Wariot Ideal’s Polaris; vibrant, in-your-face Russian madness and mayhem from performance artists Akhe, and their new show Gobo.Digital Glossary, and a disturbing and striking visual meditation of the dangers our unchecked experimentation with our natural world’s genetic make-up and identity, in Editta Braun’s Luvos. All this and a great film programme!

Manipulate is noted for its international flavour. How do you go about choosing the work?
First and foremost my choices are guided by the quality of the shows I see, and the passion and commitment of their performers and creators. And then I look for a balance of work that highlights the many different styles and techniques practitioners – in puppetry, object theatre, dance, digital media and technology among others – are synthesising into the works they make. It’s not that Manipulate audiences have to like everything they see, but I do endeavour to create a festival programme that it is difficult to be non-committal about, be that enthusiasm for a piece or strong dislike.

What have been your particular highlights over the last five festivals?
I love passionately all the work Emma and I bring to Scotland, but my personal highlight was last year when we filled Traverse Two at 9pm on a Wednesday night with 100 people who watched – with great engagement and attentiveness throughout – a two-hour Armenian film of great visual beauty and integrity, but with an almost completely impenetrable non-linear narrative, about an 18th century poet-troubadour. I believe this is a great example of how Manipulate encourages our audiences to sample work that otherwise they might have the opportunity to come into contact with.

Manipulate, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 30 Jan–Sat 4 Feb.

manipulate Visual Theatre Festival 2012

manipulate Visual Theatre Festival

Puppet Animation Scotland collates a collection of worldclass animation, puppetry and related performing arts of all styles and techniques. The 2019 event will have its base at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, with additional performances in venues across the country.


Compagnie Sans Soucis uses animation and puppetry to present Heiner Müller's shocking and explosive condensed version of Hamlet.


Liz Walker of Invisible Thread theatre tells a tale of beast-to-beauty transformation with the use of live video feed painting, object theatre, puppetry and animation.


Wariot Ideal from the Czech Republic tell the tale of two 19th-century explorers, lost and alone in the polar regions with only their memories of warmth and visions of hungry wolves for company.

Gobo.Digital Glossary

Employing everything from the quaint – shadowplay – to the cutting edge – lasers – Akhe Engineering Theatre from St Petersburg presents a frenetic series of sketches to amuse, delight and move.


A vision of a future in which humans have received grotesque genetic manipulations presented by Austria's Editta Braun Company.

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