Manipulate: championing Scottish and international visual theatre

Manipulate: championing Scottish and international visual theatre

Sabine Molenaar / credit: William van der Voort

The festival returns with a packed programme of puppetry, choreography and physical theatre

After the Christmas season, and the quiet month of January, manipulate has become the annual herald of Edinburgh's spring theatre programme. Now in its eleventh year, and still curated by artistic director Simon Hart of Puppet Animation Scotland, the festival champions Scottish and international visual theatre, a label for a collection of performance genres that encourage experimentation.

2018's programme includes puppetry, choreography and physical theatre. As project manager Melanie Purdie observes, 'it's interesting to see the wide range of the remit. Visual theatre is what it says on the tin: it doesn't necessarily have to have dialogue. But it is always eye-catching.' With a mixture of returning guests, developing work from local artists, animation and the workshops that accompany the shows, manipulate is an intensive introduction to visual theatre that also demonstrates the state of the art.

For Hart, manipulate has encouraged the growth of artists based in Scotland: 'I think the biggest single change is that we have so many Scottish artists in the programme. It took until year four before we had any representation: this year we will have three full productions, and in our Snapshots programme we offer opportunities for Scottish artists, so we have 13 performances in total.'

Visual theatre offers powerful engagement with the intellect as well. 'Audiences do have to work a bit harder to create their own narrative with all the elements on the stage,' Hart adds. 'It's a much more active way of engaging.'

Through an ongoing collaboration with the Alliance Française, manipulate will also be presenting four Francophone shows this year. While full details of the programme are still to be announced, the atmosphere and dynamism of previous festivals has made manipulate a unique opportunity to sample the best international theatre, and has established the importance of plays that don't always need words to entertain.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 26 Jan–Sat 3 Feb.

Manipulate Festival

Puppet Animation Scotland collates a collection of world-class animation, puppetry and related performing arts of all styles and techniques from a range of international artists and companies. The 2021 event features a digital programme alongside a live immersive installation programme featuring work by eight artists.

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