REVIEW: A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings Bristol Old Vic8/10
FOR years the work of Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez has left its readers around the world spellbound. His distinct tales have spurred a generation of imitators, establishing the unique genre of "magical realism".
So what better way to celebrate one of his many short stories than with a brand new stage adaptation – with puppets.
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings tracks the fortunes of a village which wakes up to find an angel has fallen in a storm. A family take in the grey, skeletal creature and soon discover its powers to heal.
They waste no time in exploiting it and people come from far and wide to gawp at the attraction which transforms the village – until a new miracle is found elsewhere.
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In this Little Angel Theatre production, beautifully crafted puppets make up the cast of villagers. Constructed and carved in an Islington theatre known as the "home of British puppetry", the models have a life-like energy.
A partnership with the Cornwall-based Kneehigh Theatre Company ensures they are expertly operated on stage. And under the direction of Kneehigh's Mike Shepherd, their detail and movement makes for a mesmerising show.
Throughout the performance characters drift in and out of the village scene carried by the four experienced puppeteers. Although clearly visible behind, the life in the models mean the puppeteers remain in the shadows. However, their voices and skill bring a dose of energy and humour to a slightly dark tale.
This lively and unconventional adaptation amplifies the magic and realism of Márquez's story and leaves the audience transfixed.
Tying the whole show together is a wonderfully dream-like soundtrack. Bristol-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Ian Ross manages to maintain the atmosphere in his debut working with puppets. There's a distinct heavy sadness that comes with his powerful string sections.
And this, together with the towering grey buildings in the village making up the set, leaves a mood that lingers with you.
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is a consistent production and one which honours Márquez and his unique style.