Puppet Festival to pull strings in Edinburgh

Rick Conte with Dog, and Richard Medrington with Elzeard from the show The Man Who Planted Trees at the Festival Theatre. Picture: contributed

Rick Conte with Dog, and Richard Medrington with Elzeard from the show The Man Who Planted Trees at the Festival Theatre. Picture: contributed

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THEY have entertained children throughout the generations, still holding an appeal even in an age of video games and gadgets.

Good old-fashioned Punch and Judy style puppet shows have stood the test of time – and the upcoming Puppet Animation Festival is testament to that. Now in its 30th year, the event – which usually attracts more than 20,000 people – promises to bring magical family performances, workshops and films to Edinburgh.

This year’s programme features a fresh twist on classical childhood tales and impressive light and sound effects to delight the under-fives.

Youngsters will also be given the chance to create their own puppets and animation.

The Festival Theatre’s new studio space will host a range of events and activities from April 14-19, including a 30th birthday party with 
Cinderella.

Events will be held throughout the Capital during the festival, which kicks off a week today.

Simon Hart, the festival’s artistic director, said: “The 2014 festival programme of countrywide events reflects 30 years of commitment to provide opportunities for the communities of Scotland to experience magical puppetry and animation events.

“Since the first festival in 1984 we have visited 200 venues in Scotland, with many internationally recognised theatre companies cutting their teeth on our festival circuit.

“Our anniversary year sees some favourites such as Puppet State Theatre’s The Man Who Planted Trees and Shona Reppe’s Cinderella, which have since travelled the globe, returning to the The Studio at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, which also marks an exciting new partnership for us.

“We’re also proud to be presenting two new pieces of work from Norwich Puppet Theatre, who have led the world of puppet making for the last 40 years.”

The popular event is the UK’s oldest and largest children’s theatre festival, which started life as a week-long event at the Netherbow Arts Centre in Edinburgh in 1984. It has since grown to cover the length and breadth of Scotland.

This year’s programme has more than 300 events in total.

It features workshops for all ages – ranging from puppet-making to animation. And the variety of puppet shows is sure to delight little ones and their parents.

Children will revel in Storybox Theatre’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier, clockwork toys, with hand-carved puppets, live music and atmospheric lighting bringing the story alive.

Family favourite The Little Red Hen will be given a new lease of life by the Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company. The adaptation features a host of animal puppets, sing-along songs and madcap comic routines. And puppetry and music will combine for an entertaining version of the Frog and Princess by Norwich Puppet Theatre and Rene Baker.

Organisers claim that one of the highlights of the festival promises to be 3 Colours, a production for two to three-year-olds at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

With the use of projection, light, puppets, music and dance, the immersive performance from Norwich Puppet Theatre and Polka Theatre will inspire the imagination of the young.

A feast of puppetry characters will also appear at Brunton Theatre and a range of community venues, including Haddington Corn Exchange, North Edinburgh Arts Centre, Prestonpans Community Centre, North Berwick Community Centre, Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre, Craigmillar Community Arts, Carnegie Hall, Longniddry Community Centre and the Out of the Blue Drill Hall.

Youngsters will have the chance to meet characters such as the Gingerbread Man in a production by Clydebuilt Puppet Theatre, while Faux Theatre will give little ones an engaging first trip to Celeste’s Circus.

As well as the wide range of public performances, the festival also has a lively and engaging schools programme.

For more details on the festival, which runs from March 29 to April 19, visit www.puppetanimation.org.