We’re excited to announce the programme for MANIPULATE Festival 2022 – a year that marks our 15th anniversary, and sees Scotland’s international festival of visual theatre, animated film and puppetry return with its first live series of events in two years.

We take a look at the current and future landscape, with a programme of cutting-edge and boundary-pushing work which explores issues of identity and the relationship between the individual and society. The artists in our programme are asking key questions about the world we are part of around gender, the environment, faith, mental health, sexuality, power and war. Together, the programme explores the relationship between the individual and society, asking of its artists and audiences, how do you build back better as we move forward as one?

Presenting a dynamic programme of live performance, film, installation, workshops and events, and additional content online, MANIPULATE will run from Friday 28 January until Saturday 5 February 2022 across Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre and Summerhall; bringing together leading Scottish and international artists from 15 countries including Canada, China, Brazil, England, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Latvia, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain and the USA.

Dawn Taylor, Artistic Director & CEO, said: “We are so thrilled to bring live work back to Scottish audiences in 2022 and also to continue developing the digital programme initiated in 2020. As we progress through to this next phase of the global pandemic, it’s clear that artists are interested in questioning the status quo and asking big questions about the society we are part of and each of our place within it. Questions of identity, climate, global unrest and the contract between individual and collective resonate through the work and in our conversations around it.

MANIPULATE 2022 is a moment for audiences, artists and industry to come back together for moments of escapism and joy as well as provocation and challenge. We’ll share spaces, both live and virtual, and engage in dialogue, learn from one another and explore questions about our shared future. That’s why for the first time this year we invite our audiences to connect in new ways, whether walking together or sharing a meal, and we’ll host more open spaces than ever to demystify the work of MANIPULATE and create points of access for emerging artists. We can’t wait to welcome you back.”


Live performances throughout the festival comment on economic, political and social issues. The festival will open with Edinburgh born artist and performer Sadiq Ali who presents his first-full length show The Chosen Haram, dealing with themes of addiction, connection, faith and sexuality.

Image (c) The Chosen Haram Glen McCarty

Each weekend, the festival will see a special new strand Dinner with… which invites audiences to a two course meal in Summerhall’s gallery bar, hosted by some of our favourite Scottish performance artists. Audiences are invited to Dinner with LARDS, an ensemble of Scottish theatre artists with specialisms in clown, bouffon and character work who celebrate liveness, risk and joy in their work. The following weekend, join MANIPULATE for Dinner with Plutot La Vie, a mesmerising evening of intimate performance, an evening of illusion where everything may not be what it seems.

Jean Daniel Broussé (JD) explores themes of family, queer culture and sexuality in his performance (Le) Pain – a show about breadmaking, physical heroics, growing up queer in a boulangerie in the south of France, endings and new beginnings.

From sexuality and queer culture, to celebrities and drag culture, award-winning Rambert-trained British dance theatre company Thick & Tight take influence from a wide range of historical, political, literary and artistic subjects, with a focus on promoting queer culture and accessibility within dance. Created by Eleanor Perry and Daniel Hay-Gordon, the company present Short & Sweet; a modern variety show that mixes dance, drag, lip-syncing and satire, bringing together a host of famous and infamous characters to life including Sid Vicious, Twiggy, Grace Jones, Rasputin, Edith Sitwell and everyone’s favourite avant-garde duo, John Cage & Elaine Paige.

From icons to idols, Scottish-based dance artist Suzi Cunningham presents double-bill Rules to Live By // EIDOS that veers between anarchy, punk music, heroism and how idolatry and loss can shape a life. The idea for Rules to Live By came in 2018 after the death of one of Suzi’s teenage idols, Mark E. Smith of the band The Fall, whose collaboration with Michael Clark led her to train as a dancer. It is a requiem for heroism, hedonism, rebirth and dark disturbing humour.

Scottish female-led theatre collective Snap-Elastic is led by Alice Mary Cooper, Eszter Marsalko, Isy Sharman and Claire Eliza Willoughby, and together they create bold physical performance work. Exploring themes of predatory behaviour, EAT ME is a luscious, incendiary theatre show about unconventional love, chaos, control and the shifting complexities of power.

Image (c) Eat Me Mihaela Bodlovic

Also exploring themes of power and control are festival favourites Ljubljana Puppet Theatre / Lutkovno gledališče Ljubljana who return to MANIPULATE two years after their visit with the extraordinary Open The Owl. An intimate puppet-object miniature exploring power, weakness and control, Moč / The Power draws the audience into a strange, distorted world, asking the question: ‘Who is manipulating who in this work, which plays with varying notions of power and weakness, as well as of public and private?’

Looking at the impact of war and displacement is the world premiere performance of The Yellow Canary that opens following its work-in-progress presentation as part of the MANIPULATE digital festival in 2021, and animated documentary My Favourite War (MANS MĪĻĀKAIS KARŠ).

Presented by performance maker Tashi Gore, with visual theatre expert Ross MacKay and playwright Will Gore, The Yellow Canary will be presented in a hybrid format of live performance and digital animation. It is both an epic true story and a leap into the imagination of a young child desperate to escape the horrors of war, exploring love, loss and what it means to flee your home.

From stage to screen, Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen’s My Favourite War (MANS MĪĻĀKAIS KARŠ) – tells the personal story of its director, Ilze, about growing up in the Cold-War USSR. Winner of awards including Annecy Contrechamp Competition, French Critics Prize and Latvian National Film Prize- Animator Of The Year, it is an exciting coming-of-age story about finding one’s own identity, truth and loyalty.

Image (c) My Favourite War Ego Media

The theme of displacement is also pertinent to the work of theatre company Agrupación Señor Serrano, Spanish masters of micro-cinema Señor Serrano who blend live feed video, scale models, text, performance, sound and objects, and return to MANIPULATE following their critically acclaimed performance of A House in Asia in 2017. Presenting the Scottish premiere of their theatre work Birdie, the multimedia performance highlights the plight of refugees through the lens of migrating birds, and includes live video, objects, Hitchcock’s The Birds revisited, scale models, 2000 mini animals, wars, smugglers, a massive migration and three performers handling this messy world with wit, criticism and commitment with humankind.

In another performance which asks searching questions about the relationship between the individual and society, physical theatre artist Lewis Sherlock and performance writer Ali Maloney present After Metamorphosis; a dramatic reworking of Kafka’s classic which puts toxic workplace culture and its effect on the individual under the lens. The piece weaponizes the surrealism of the original text into a wild rumpus, unveiling a satire of identity and conformity.

From physical to aerial theatre, Ill Lit is a powerful performance that uses the Japanese art of shibari (rope bondage) exploring mental health, cycles of repetition and the struggle to break out. Performed by Kasia Zawadzka, one of the pioneers of world self-suspension rope performance who has worked with some of the world’s leading rope practitioners including Kinoko Hajime, Saki Kamijoo, Garth Knight and Esinem.

For the second year running, the festival will platform and celebrate the work of womxn and non-binary animators from around the world. First initiated in 2020 to champion the work of women (cisgender, transgender, non-binary, genderqueer or intersex), with the aim of improving visibility for women in the film sector and addressing the current gender imbalance in animated film, the programme features work employing a wide range of techniques, textures and styles and includes some of the most decorated shorts in this year’s festival season.

Looking to legends of the animation world, Animated Womxn: Aaronimation will include a compilation of seven short experimental animated films by legendary American artist and animator Jane Aaron (1948-2015). Aaron’s experimental animations, compiled in the half-hour Aaronimation, are quintessentially cinematic. One frame at a time filmed with her Bolex camera, the films explore qualities unique to pre-digital movie-making augmented by Jane’s own handmade production tools and techniques. The works capture an era of 16mm filmmaking that is now frozen in history by obsolescence of the film medium.

With a dizzying array of animation styles and a packed programme of untold stories and exciting talent, MANIPULATE once again partners with Edinburgh Short Film Festival to bring audiences award-winning short animated films from around the globe. Featuring new work fresh onto the festival circuit, the programme offers something for everyone whether new to animated film or an avid fan.

All animations in the programme will be available for audiences to watch online as well, keeping the programme accessible to those outside of Scotland, or who cannot attend in person.

From film to installations, French artists Adrien M & Claire B present two immersive digital experiences that use interactive augmented reality in Acqua Alta – The Crossing of the Mirror and FAUNA. Acqua Alta is an interactive virtual reality installation that invites audiences to look through a tablet or a smartphone to discover the story of a woman, a man and a house. It traces the odyssey of those involved, facing the rising waters, among storms, ink seas, breaking waves and jellyfish.

Visual artist and scenographer Claire Bardainne and computer scientist and juggler Adrien Mondot also showcase their creativity and skill in second installation FAUNA, which allows people to go on a treasure hunt to find and explore the imaginative worlds hidden behind the graphic prints. Fauna is a series of ten large-format posters with a custom-built Augmented Reality application that can be discovered via your smartphone, and presents animals roaming in beautiful landscapes and subtle soundscapes hiding behind city walls.

Continuing the programme of installations, audiences can discover Forest VIDEOLAB in the Meadows adjacent to Summerhall. Led by Mettje Hunneman, a Scottish-based videographer/editor and video artist hailing from Amsterdam’s dynamic art and VJ scene, the installation is a series of unique, site-specific, public artworks using immersive video projections with original soundscapes to highlight and transform public green spaces and question our place in nature.

Celebrating and supporting artists who play with form and challenge perceptions is central to the work of Puppet Animation Scotland, and this year’s MANIPULATE will see 3 programmed work-in-progress performances, working once again in partnership with SURGE and their bursary programme.

Firstly is Between Earth and Moon by Noah Tomson – a Surge bursary award recipient who will present this Scottish-Argentinian work-in-progress collaboration, performed live between the two countries using livestream technology. The piece is inspired by Italo Calvino’s short story ‘The Distance of the Moon’ and will explore relationships across distance.

Secondly is Sand, presented by multi-skilled artists Petre Dobre & Daniel Livingstone which tells of a very old mythical being – the Sandman. Sand is a highly visual work-in-progress performance that blends theatrical styles to bring the Sandman’s world to life through movement, object manipulation and shadow puppetry. Through this lens, they’ll explore dreams and face nightmares.

Next up is MANIPULATE’s SNAPSHOTS that gives audiences a first look at exciting new visual theatre works from five Scottish artists, presented in the early stages of their development. Featuring puppetry, object theatre, physical theatre and dance, the lineup promises insight into the process of a diverse group of artists working with a wide range of techniques. Presenting work at this early stage is an invaluable opportunity for artists to share their work with an audience and receive feedback which can play a key role in shaping the work as it evolves.

From work-in-progress to professional development opportunities, MANIPULATE Festival has 2 workshops from leading practitioners Al Seed and Green Ginger.

Al Seed presents What Makes a Good Idea for a Show? This is a question that can be deceptively difficult to answer at any stage in one’s career, but more so when there is the agenda of creating a show that is visually / physically driven. In this workshop Al will work with participants to explore approaches to identifying, developing and pitching concepts for future shows with presenting partners, audiences and collaborators in mind.

Green Ginger presents TRASH-HACK Puppetry Workshop, a full day workshop for both experienced and emerging puppeteers with the inimitable Chris Pirie of leading UK puppetry company Green Ginger. Trash-Hack is a masterclass in re-purposing domestic and industrial junk to create and animate instant puppet creatures.

Image (c) no credit

And finally, in a series of events programmed to help artists, practitioners and producers connect with other puppeteers and enthusiasts, MANIPULATE Festival presents Netwalk (puppetry) – a practical way to connect with other professionals by walking and talking around Edinburgh’s iconic Meadows. Proven to increase creative thinking, as well as to encourage honest and productive conversations, one member of the Puppet Animation Scotland team will join each walk with ticket holders entitled to a free hot chocolate to keep them cosy as they stroll.


We have a strong commitment to accessibility, and we strive to constantly improve access for all audiences. As the work presented during MANIPULATE is primarily visual, we are particularly committed to improving experiences of the festival for D/deaf audiences. In 2022 we will have our most accessible live festival to date, with lots of BSL-interpreted performances, several other non-verbal performances and all our films subtitled with closed captions.

Additionally, we will operate a request system for an interpreter to attend festival workshops, panel discussions and networking events. If you’d like to participate in an event and require an interpreter or if you have access to one and would like them to come with you, please contact us by Friday 15 January, and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

If you have any questions about accessibility, require more information, or have any thoughts about how we can improve our access provision, please see our access page or contact: [email protected]

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