In their very first collaboration, Little Angel Theatre and Kneehigh's production of A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings brings Gabriel Garcia Marquez's fable to life with a 100 strong cast of puppets. This whirlwind and fantastical tale follows the fortunes of the inhabitants of a rural English community after a winged seraph crash lands in their village.
Opening with the surprise arrival of the man in a beautifully violent storm which rocks their windswept coast, this celestial being mysteriously clears the town of its plague of crabs and prevents a local boy from a seemingly inevitable death. An emaciated, fragile figure bestowed with enormous, ethereal wings, he is quickly imprisoned by the villagers in a chicken coop as they spy a lucrative opportunity in offering out his extraordinary services.
Even incidental characters were well rounded and playfully depicted. Particular favourites were 'Barnardo the Backward, whose head was turned by a woman and now he only sees where he's been', and the little blue boy who journeys by bicycle, boat and hot air balloon to report news of the town's fortune to the ever illusive 'His Highest Eminence' who ultimately commands the same blindness to the being as the villagers themselves.
The language is wonderfully lyrical with playwrite Anna Maria Murphy offering a script which rang true to the magical realism rooted in the original story. She delivers a true-to-life narrative punctuated by moments of whimsical, often symbolic, fantasy described in the same matter-of-fact tone.
The play is a scathing if not sometimes simplistic satire of organised religion and superficial commercialism and exposes the exploitation of the weak or vulnerable that both are guilty of. All in all, a wonderful parable reminiscent of Hebrews 13:2 “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Go and see it.
A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings runs until the 19th January at Battersea Art Centre.