A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Everything Theatre

Yes, I, a grown woman, was so excited after watching A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings that I couldn’t even wait to get home to tell my boyfriend!

Adapted from a story by Nobel Prize Gabriel García Márquez, this piece uses storytelling and puppetry to capture the author’s signature magic realism. Dark and gentle, it portrays the evil of mankind, as well as the relentless course of fate to which everyone is subdued; there is nothing humans can do to divert its will.

In an unnamed coastal town a young couple, Pelayo and Elisenda, live with a new-born child. After three days of incessant rain and the consequent crab invasion in their courtyard, the baby falls so ill that he might not survive the night. Hoping for this to be the remedy, Pelayo takes all the dead crabs back to the sea, when he spots, sitting on a cliff, a very old man with, you guessed, a set of enormous wings. He’s very weak and speaks a foreign tongue that nobody can understand. Is he angel or demon?

After consulting with the neighbour woman – who’s an expert on all things magic – the couple decide to shelter him in the chicken coop and feed him with some food scraps. The days become months and, soon enough, he becomes an attraction for all the neighbouring villages. Even the priest is called to express his opinion.

The poetry of little gestures makes Karen McCartney’s narration feel special. Around her, Manus Halligan stitches the story together with live camera projections, painted backgrounds, sound effects and a glorious explosion of goose feathers. The lighting is dim and warm, the set made to look like an old dining room, with scant wooden furniture and a mantelpiece.

I was absolutely bewitched by the world that was taking shape before my eyes and this award-winning show from Ireland made me want to be a child again.