Tuesday, 8 January 2013

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings - review

Written by: Anna Jones (@Now4567Anna)

Battersea Arts Centre, London

Based on the 1955 short story by Literature Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, this bitter sweet fable is beautifully reimagined with a cast of over 100 puppets by the Little Angel Theatre and Kneehigh, working in collaboration for the first time. Created in 2011 by Little Angel to celebrate their 50th Anniversary; this production contains all the heart, hilarity, and skill that we have come to expect from both companies.

Photo: Little Angel Theatre
The set (Lyndie Wright) is that of a seaside town, closely resembling a sleepy Cornish fishing town, where the villagers make their meagre living from crabs. Life is simple but often difficult, especially for one couple whose young son is close to death. This all changes when a very old man with enormous wings crash lands in their backyard after a particularly stormy night at sea. The villagers decide that he is an angel, a belief substantiated by his ability to heal all manner of ailments. It is a cautionary tale which resonates well with our consumer society; as soon as the townsfolk realise that money can be made, the tourists move in and the satellite dishes go up. But this new prosperity is short-lived…

Photo: Little Angel Theatre
Anyone familiar with the original story will find that the plot has been adapted by writer Anna Maria Murphy to include a wealth of new characters; this fleshes out the plot but Murphy has maintained the mystery and wonder of the old man who brings fame and fortune, but also despair. Puppeteers Sarah Wright (also puppet director), Roger Lade, Avye Leventis and Rachel Leonard (puppeteers directed by Kneehigh’s Mike Shepherd) move fluidly between puppets, operating them with dexterity and bringing all of them to life to the delight of adult and child alike.

Worth a particular mention is the music composed by Ian Ross and Benji Bower, which perfectly complements the story’s eccentric and colourful characters. This is a perfectly formed masterclass in storytelling and puppetry. 

This production runs until 19th January 2013
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