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A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, Battersea Arts Centre

everything theatre originally reviewed this production at the Battersea Arts Centre. It will transfer to the Little Angel Theatre on 20th February 2013, where it will run until 2nd March 2013: http://www.littleangeltheatre.com/lat/whatson/forthcoming/MjQy

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Directed by Mike Shepherd

Pros: Stunning puppetry and fun for the whole family

Cons: The show felt a little long and a tad slow in places. It also lacked the sparkle of the author’s original short story, sadly.

Our Verdict: A charming experience for young and old but a bit blander than desired.

Courtesy of Ellie Kurttz for The Telegraph

I don’t usually go in for puppet shows but I was intrigued at the idea of a staged version of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s terrific short story. On the written page, the story is outstandingly vivid and mysterious and so a staged version sounded like a terrific idea. A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is the newest show at Battersea Arts Center by Little Angels Theatre Company in collaboration with Kneehigh. It is aimed not only at literature aficionados but at children, families, and anyone looking for a pleasant fairytale experience.

It is the story of a small seaside town that is rocked when the title character – A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings (and apparent healing powers) – falls quite suddenly into a family’s backyard. Their paralyzed son is miraculously healed and the presence of the winged man brings life, excitement and controversy into the dreary community. This production brings to light several themes as the audience are asked to confront issues of ‘othering’, humane treatment, religion and domestic issues.

Of course, the main event of the show is the puppets themselves which are extraordinarily crafted and expertly manipulated by the Little Angels Company. More than anything else, I was fascinated by their ability to breathe life into each puppet and convey so much nuance, personality and artistry (which I honestly never expected to appreciate). The design of the very old man himself looked especially beautiful – a fascinating winged creature which really brought Marquez’s magical character to life. He was handled very creatively and effectively, conveying both the threat and hope he is associated with in the minds of the community. The animals were also particularly interesting to watch with the demeanor of chickens and dogs all captured perfectly and not with the caricaturesque silliness one might expect.

Although this show is a very charming experience overall, I didn’t feel particularly engaged or involved which was a real shame considering the magic of the source material. While you get the sense that the old man is being mistreated, the issue is never really fully confronted and the character who is perhaps most interesting and engaging – the formerly paralyzed son – drifts in and out of the play. The focus is almost entirely on his less interesting parents and community members. This gives the subtle, magical story of the book a more cartoony feel than the written version, which is a shame in many ways.  However, what is nice about this tonal deviance is that the play packs jokes and interesting elements for all age groups, making it a great family experience and good for us grown up kids too!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings runs at The Battersea Arts Centre until 19 January 2013. 
Box Office: 020 7223 2223 or book online at http://www.bac.org.uk/whats-on/veryoldman/tickets/

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Everything Theatre is proud to support fringe theatre, not only in London but beyond. From reviews to interviews, articles and even a radio show, our work is at the heart of the industry, and we are official assessors for the Off West End OffComm awards. Founded in 2011 as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts, today we are staffed by diverse contributors - people who not only work in theatre, but also in law, medicine, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for theatre.

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