The Stage

11th August 2006

This lyrically told story of a French farmer’s lifelong obsession with planting trees uses miniature puppetry, birds on fishing rods and the smells of lavender and forest glades to create a multi-sensual and visually witty hour of children’s theatre.

Performers Rick Conte and Richard Medrington work skilfully off each other. Conte in charge of the farmer’s cheeky, stick-loving puppet dog and Medrington taking us on a journey into the past and the heart of the French countryside. Medrington’s voice is lilting and perfectly modulated, shifting pace and intonation, creating tension and pathos.

The two performers share banter and badinage, the serious side of the story dealing with world wars and plutocratic government officials tempered by Conte’s jaunty puppet work with the dog. Some clever nods to the audience’s suspension of disbelief show children the magic and playfulness of theatre. It’s a carefully judged affair, balancing history, environmentalism and comedy.

The smells waft through the theatre, while children leap from their seats to touch the bobbing birds above their head. The French farmer’s story is gently suggestive without preaching, his solitude and perseverance a moving counterweight to the century of bloodshed and corruption he lives through.

William McEvoy