MICF: The Man Who Planted Trees

The publicity for The Man Who Planted Trees said variously for ages 2–7 or 7–adult.  I hope people read the latter because, having been lulled to my seat by the mellifluous tones of Charles Trenet singing “La Mer”, I drifted straight back to my young adult years.

The Man Who Planted Trees
The Man Who Planted Trees

So, roll up everybody because this is a wonderful show for any age group and when you receive the two tree seeds as you leave, be sure to go home and plant them with zeal and devotion as per the directions on the back of your program.

L’homme Qui Plantait Des Arbres, the French name for the story written by Jean Giono in 1950, couldn’t be presented in Australia at a better time for its subtle yet powerful message about our responsibility towards our precious environment.

As well as its clever presentation, I would give it five stars for side-splitting comedy as a highlight of MICF. The great actor W C Fields said never work with children or animals.  Although the animal in this instance was a puppet dog and the children were a large part of the audience, the show Richard Medrington and Rick Conte, master puppeteers from Scotland’s Puppet State Theatre Company, have created has achieved a significant triumph for both.

The laughter rocked the studio, whether caused by the antics of the dog, the wit of the lines or the random water spraying to get the message across about its importance to the forests.There’s nothing so spontaneous and uninhibited as the laughter of children and when it’s accompanied by their parents it’s a double whammy.  To their great credit, even the youngest seemed to get the jokes and understand the occasional throwaway lines in French.

Medrington and Conte wore matching clothes in earth colours that blended into the background while they handled the puppets. One of these was the shepherd, Eizeard Bouffier, solely responsible for planting thousands of trees throughout his lifetime, which spanned two world wars and many years of hardship with only his dog for company. He had been devastated to see what had been a beautiful valley at the foot of the Alps in Provence neglected and barren and, as a widower, he decided to do something about it. His dedication was an act of love for the environment that brought pleasure to people for years after his death.

Giono’s story was made into an animated film, which won an Academy Award in 1987. Now this brilliant puppet performance, already shown in eight countries, continues to deliver an important message in the best possible way.

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