AS its name suggests, the ever-excellent Manipulate festival (which is held annually in Edinburgh) includes in its programme works of puppet theatre and animation (its other art forms being visual and physical theatre).

Early in this year’s festival (which runs ­until next Sunday), audiences were offered The House, an ingenious piece by acclaimed Danish puppet company Sofie Krog Teater.

Krog introduced the piece (which played in the Traverse 2 studio theatre) as a “­horror ­comedy”. As promised, the show involves ­dastardly deeds and humorous events as the large, creaking abode of the title gives up its secrets.

The house (which is also the location of a seemingly thriving funeral home business) will soon become the scene of unholy intrigues, ­terrible violence and Keystone Cops-style ­slapstick.

The National: Manipulate festival includes works of puppet theatre and animation. 

The source of all this activity is the ­avaricious competition that is touched off by an overheard change to the last will and testament of the ­elderly Mrs Esperanza, the business’s ­proprietor, who has, it seems, rumbled the scheming of ­Flora, the greedy and ­untrustworthy wife of the old woman’s layabout nephew Henry.

There are wheels within wheels in this ­family story, as we discover when the hilariously ­ludicrous double act of Tony and Bruno arrive on the scene. Casing the house while wearing preposterously conspicuous military uniforms, the daft brothers’ efforts at espionage aren’t helped by the fact that one of them is terrified of dead bodies.

Add to this the pivotal visit of Mrs ­Esperanza’s lawyer, the shenanigans of a hyperactive dog and the various disturbances to the ­coffin ­containing poor Mr Smith, and there is more than enough activity to fill the 55 ­minutes of this highly inventive puppet theatre production.

It would be a crime on a par with those planned by numerous characters in The House to divulge the great secret behind the story’s ­intrigues. Suffice it to say – as the talking house suggests at the top of the show – all is, ­eventually, revealed.

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Fun though the narrative is, however, the real strength of the piece lies not in what is told, but how it is told. The house itself is a miniature marvel.

Turning through 360 degrees, it operates like a regular stage revolve, allowing us to see the ­interior and exterior of the building as the ­action requires.

The lighting is similarly ­impressive and ­responsive to the action.

The puppets themselves are universally ­superb, sometimes gothic, but mainly comic, as the tale requires. They are manipulated with breathtaking dexterity by puppeteers Krog and David Faraco.

For example, there is tremendous visual ­humour in the early scenes in which Tony and Bruno horse around outside the house, ­seemingly labouring under the illusion that they are both 007 material. The puppeteers exhibit glorious skill as they generate the characters’ slapstick antics.

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The House is a work of great imagination and technical accomplishment, and a fine way to start this year’s festival.

The Manipulate Festival continues until February 11. For programme details, click HERE.