Summerhall (Main Hall), Edinburgh until 28 August
Based on a short story by Gabriel García Márquez and adapted for the stage by director Dan Colley, performer, Manus Halligan and Genevieve Hulme Beaman, this is a show intended for children eight and older, but actually appeals to the humour of adults more with the dark humour injected into Summerhall’s Main Hall.
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is the tale of Elisenda and Palayo who live in a shack that sees relentless rain and, equally so, crabs, which they believe are making their baby sick. And then they come across this very old man, and know not of his identity. They put him in a chicken coup and they make money off him, as the idea of his being an angel catches on. Their shack soon becomes something altogether different.
Told through the unusual performative narrative via Karen McCartney (Elisenda) in a morbid and abrupt manner, certainly not the conventional warmth of a storyteller, it soon gets audiences astounded and nervously giggling. Accompanied by the nervy, edgy Palayo, who is wonderfully performed by Manus Halligan, who brings in a beguiling list of items to assist with their storytelling, they compel and capture us, pulling us into this miniature word of Marquez’s. Using tiny figurines, many made up with bottle corks, tiny cameras, feather and lights, they effectively produce an unsurprisingly award-winning performance.
A tale made enchanting, beguiling with seemingly simplistic storytelling techniques, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings will have you bowled over with joy and dark laughter. A cruel tale that addresses the ways in which humans fear and respond to the unknown, it’s told with an abrupt manner that slaps us with humour, forcing us to confront these themes. This unconventional form of storytelling just allows it to stay sitting with us for longer, as we ponder on the finer elements of the production. And the absurdism that sits in between.