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What's on at Manipulate Festival 2024

Updated: Feb 27

Manipulate Festival 2024, Edinburgh. Ruxy Cantir, Pickled Republic

Manipulate Festival 2024 returns to Edinburgh under the newly launched Manipulate Arts brand, presenting animated film, puppetry and visual theatre across Edinburgh with shows at Traverse Theatre, The Studio at Festival Theatre, Fruitmarket, Summerhall, WHALE Arts, The French Institute, Dancebase and online.

Manipulate Festival, Edinburgh’s international festival of animated film, puppetry, and visual theatre, returns for its 17th edition in February 2024, marking the start of the 40th year of Manipulate Arts, formerly Puppet Animation Scotland. Manipulate Festival will once more celebrate international and homegrown work that tells stories primarily through imagery instead of text or breathes life into the inanimate, crossing borders and welcoming audiences of all backgrounds into the fold. 

The 2024 Festival will once again spread across the city of Edinburgh - with live performance, screenings, and workshops taking place in venues including the Traverse Theatre, Festival Theatre, Fruitmarket, Summerall, WHALE Arts, The French Institute and Dancebase, and reaching into audiences' homes with its online programme. This year’s programme has been supported by three associate programmers: Natasha Ruwona, Emily Nicholl and Holly Summerson. With artist support and development a huge part of Manipulate Arts’ work, the Festival is delighted to welcome an international exchange with artists from Finland, Norway, Belgium and Germany. 

Audiences will discover an acrobatic Thomas Hardy adaptation and a farcical robotic dinner service; party with an existential pickle; contemplate the end of our world; witness dancers inside a giant, mesmerising video cube; take a psychedelic journey through a faraway planet ruled by blue giants; and much more, across a diverse and exciting range of visual artforms. 

Manipulate Festival 2024, Edinburgh. Ragnarok - photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Manipulate Festival 2024 interrogates the many ways in which we relate to the world around us, and explores visions of the future - what is in store for us globally and as individuals, our relationship to the climate that surrounds us, how technology can hinder and help us, and how we form our identity in relation to culture. 

Manipulate Festival 2024 will run from Thursday 1 - Sunday 11 February, presenting an exciting and varied programme of live performances; film screenings; discussions; workshops and events. Thanks to funding from Film Hub Scotland, there is a significantly expanded film programme for 2024, including the Scottish debut of One Bum Cinema Club, which will pop up around the city to welcome audiences into a cinema screening for one, with 3 programmes of accessible animated film waiting for the people of Edinburgh to discover them. 

Manipulate Arts Artistic Director and CEO Dawn Taylor said: “The magical thing about the artforms at the heart of Manipulate Festival is their endless potential for innovation, and audiences can expect some exciting new approaches to puppetry and visual theatre this year unlike anything they’ve seen before. Our animation programme is the biggest it has ever been, creating a real moment of celebration for animation in Scotland. The range and calibre of presented artists, alongside the contributions of our artist associate programmers, have really worked to elevate this year’s programme.

Artists and creative organisations are struggling more than ever in this financial climate - but as ever our community of artists has responded to these challenges with ingenuity and creativity, making for a dynamic programme in the 40th anniversary year for Manipulate Arts. ”

Theatre Officer at Creative Scotland, Jaine Lumsden, said: Manipulate Festival is the home of animation, puppetry and visual theatre in Scotland, showcasing the wide varieties and possibilities of such dynamic storytelling mediums.  Audiences and artists will be able to enjoy work of the highest quality and innovation from Scottish-based and international artists, discovering unique perspectives and initiatives. With a packed programme spread across the festival city of Edinburgh, it will be the perfect celebration of Manipulate Arts’ 40th anniversary year.” 



The Manipulate Festival 2024 Programme includes: 

The House from Denmark’s Sofie Krog Theatre is a European puppetry classic, having racked up hundreds of performances over the last decade across the continent. A darkly hilarious piece of puppetry, this Scottish Premiere performance is set in the Warehouse Family Funeral Home after the death of their undertaker, and features a revolving set with intricate lighting and sound, intrigue, mystery, and murder.

Manipulate Festival 2024, Edinburgh. Sofie Krog Teater, The House

Death and its after effects can also be seen in Last Rites from Manipulate Festival veteran and Scottish artist Ramesh Meyyappan, co-directed by George Mann with Edinburgh Festival Fringe favourites Ad Infinitum. This entirely wordless performance - accessible to d/Deaf and hearing audiences - explores funeral rites in an intimate, final ceremony which unearths a rich tapestry of shared memories and a complex relationship between father and son.

Plinth is led by celebrated Scottish theatre-maker and festival returner Al Seed, produced in partnership with Vanishing Point. Abstract and unearthly, Plinth is the wordless journey of a statue, shocked into life, descending into a warzone. Seed draws on the myth of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur as he explores the concept of the ‘hero’ versus ‘other’. 

Manipulate Festival 2024, Edinburgh. AI Seed, Plinth. Photo: Lawrence Winram

Scottish artists and Manipulate Festival favourites Tortoise in a Nutshell present the much-awaited Ragnarok, originally programmed for Manipulate Festival 2020, and arriving now off the back of TIAN’s acclaimed run of Concerned Others at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023. Questioning what happens at the end of an age, Ragnarok uses hand-crafted clay figures, an immersive soundtrack and performers to conjure up a multisensory world. 

Further exploring conflict and its lasting effects, Compagnie à explore the legacy of colonisation in today’s world in the UK Premiere of The Conquest (La Conquête). Using the body as a stage, this piece of object theatre explores the ideas of dual identities and universal history, with artists Dorothée Saysonbat and Sika Gblondoume using the body, mini figures, and a large sandbox. 

Multi-award-winning contemporary circus company Ockham’s Razor present the Scottish Premiere of Tess - a bold new adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D'Urbervilles. One actor joins six circus performers to blend the physical language of circus with the original text, creating a powerful retelling of the classic novel through a feminist lens to question privilege, class, consent, agency, and female desire. 

Manipulate Festival 2024, Edinburgh. Ockhams Razor, Tess. Photo - Kie Cummings

Play and fun continues to be a huge part of Manipulate Art’s remit, and is all the more important alongside exploring our fears. Ruxy Cantir’s critically-acclaimed Pickled Republic & Pickle Party sees Ruxy welcome audiences into the pickle jar for an existential lament and chaotic search for meaning in a surreal cabaret with puppetry, mask, and pickled vegetables. 

France’s Compagnie Bakélite will present two Scottish Premieres. Love of Risk (L’Amour du Risqué) welcomes in Saturday 3 February - a hilarious farce involving a surreal ballet of increasingly disordered robot vacuum cleaners as they attempt to serve a man dinner by candle light. On Sunday 4 February, Invaders (Envahisseurs) finds a lurking threat of strange, gelatinous beings at the edge of the universe moving towards the earth in a piece of tabletop object manipulation. 

Continuing to explore technology and robotics, the Scottish Premiere of Simple Machines, presented by Belgian Theatre company Kwaad Bloed, sees choreographer Ugo Dehaes show how he grows organic-looking robots in his basement, raises them, and trains them to be dancers. Simple Machines treads the lines between satirising the idea that technology could replace humans in the arts, while also showcasing the beauty and potential within machines. After each performance, the audience is invited to see the robots up close and teach them their own dance moves. 

For the final day of the festival, Sunday 11 February will see three dancers encased in a mesmerising, large cube in Megahertz’s Ruins. With animation projected onto the video cube itself, the show explores rupture, adaptation, and togetherness across species as it studies our relation to our natural environment both individually and on a global scale. 

Manipulate Festival 2024, Edinburgh. MHz, Ruins. Photo: Brian Hartley

This year’s animation programme features a range of styles, genres, and voices with a mix of animated shorts and feature film across the festival. The Crossing (La traversée) by Florence Miailhe (2020) is a hand-painted masterpiece exploring the plight of displaced persons through the eyes of a brother and sister fleeing across a fictionalised Europe. Junk Head by Takehide Hori (2021), a stunning Japanese stop-motion animation seven years in the making, inhabits a charming yet grotesque future dystopia of a machine-driven society. Fantastic Planet (La Planète Sauvage) by René Laloux (1973) is a French/Czech animated classic, a psychedelic sci-fi set on a planet of blue giants, touching on themes of racism, animal rights, and Soviet oppression.

A new initiative for 2024 sees two associate programmers Natasha Ruwona and Holly Summerson join the Festival with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and artistic innovation. Each has curated a programme of shorts from around the world; exploring themes of social justice, identity, and our relationship with the natural and urban landscape. A third shorts programme is curated in partnership with Samizdat Eastern European Film Festival, offering a retrospective of Eastern European animated film.

The One Bum Cinema Club will pop up in a number of Edinburgh locations (to be announced early next year). This cinema for exactly one bum at a time sees a travelling wooden shed, with one screen and one cinema chair, show three programmes of animated shorts lasting 12 minutes each, suitable for all ages.

Manipulate Festival 2024 will kick off in style with a joyful opening party, this year at the Fruitmarket Gallery on Thursday 1 February. More information will be announced in January. 

Throughout the mid-week of Manipulate Festival there will be a focus on artist development, a key strand to the festival, with two works in progress presented as part of the Surge Double Bill: Hover & I, Honeypot. Hover is a duet between human performance artist Althea Young and remote operated drone DJ (DJI Mini Pro 3) which blends dance, physical theatre and technology to explore surveillance and capitalism. I, Honeypot draws from the lived experience and intersectional identities of artist Nikhita Devi, expressing the universal human search for identity, while deeply rooted in the tension of dual cultural heritages and belonging to intersecting marginalised communities. 

Snapshots will return with up to 15 minutes of early-development animated film, puppetry and visual theatre from six Scottish artists. Snapshots has featured in the development of some of Scotland’s most acclaimed visual theatre works throughout the years. 

Workshops for professional artists throughout the festival will include sessions led by visual theatre-maker Ramesh Meyyappan; aerialist Joana Dias; object theatre company Compagnie à; and a silent clowning workshop by Lucy Hopkins.

In our discussion programme, in response to current events both globally and in the UK, we host an event exploring the concept of solidarity, and the role that art can and should play in challenging times. We will also collaborate with Shotput to host a discussion about visual theatre languages and storytelling within visual performance.

🎟️ Tickets for the 2024 festival are on sale on Manipulate Arts’ website now


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What's on at Edinburgh's Manipulate Festival 2024 (formerly Puppet Animation Scotland)

Lisa in the theatre, theater, reviews, blog, Scotland, Scottish


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