Theatre preview: Leaf By Niggle

Tolkien short story adapted for the stage

Leaf by Niggle image of a man holding a paintbrush in the air

‘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.

Leaf By Niggle

Puppet State Theatre follows up its successful show The Man Who Planted Trees with this new production for ages 12+. Based on JRR Tolkien’s short story, Leaf By Niggle centres on a painter who keeps getting distracted from his work.


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