Theatre preview: Leaf By Niggle
Tolkien short story adapted for the stage
‘It’s a very un-Tolkien story,’ says Richard Medrington of Leaf By Niggle, the relatively unknown short story by the Lord of the Rings author. ‘It’s perhaps his least-known story – most people look at you blankly when you mention it, but every so often their eyes light up.
‘There are no goblins, dragons or wizards, although it is a fantasy. But it’s quite serious in many ways.’
First published in 1945, Leaf By Niggle tells of an artist named Niggle who is determined to paint a picture of a tree, down to the very last detail, even though he needs to go on a long journey.
The show has been a labour of love for Medrington, who first approached the Tolkien estate for permission to stage the story 20 years ago. At first, he was denied – but having spent years touring the hugely successful Man Who Planted Trees – he now finally has the chance to perform it.
‘Tolkien wrote it just as he was starting the Lord of the Rings trilogy,’ says Medrington, ‘and in a sense this story is about a character who’s nervous about undertaking their own journey, and who doesn’t get to complete their work.’
Leaf By Niggle, Festival Theatre Studio, Edinburgh, Thu 14–Sat 16 Apr, then touring.