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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Dan Colley and Riverbank Arts Centre

Genre: Adaptation, Children's Theatre, Puppetry

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s darkly comic tale brought to the stage for children and adults to share. In a kitchen of a theatre, two storytellers and their audience find something remarkable – a very old man with enormous wings. Inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Un Senor Muy Viejo Con Unas Alas Enormes, this classic piece of magic realism is brought to the stage with beautiful, strange, emotional richness.

Suitability: 5+


This is an imaginative production with intrigue, drama and subtle humour that people of all ages can enjoy together. Objects such as goose feathers and small hand made figures made of string, corks, wire with hand painted faces are carefully manipulated on the surfaces to create a village, farm yard and more.

A sort of mischief and rivalry experienced by siblings permeates the curious world of two storyteller characters in this magical realism story – an atmosphere is immediately apparent in the darkish room with an old school wooden table and a low bookshelf. On the table and shelves are bits and pieces much like anyone would have – yet these look from another time and place.

Expect the unexpected in this performance where people, babies and other ethereal beings appear, reappear and disappear until we find the eponymous very old man with enormous wings. Manus Halligan and Karen McCartney play the two strange characters with verve and style. Their reactions to each other are specific, contrasting and boldly bring this story to life.

Inspired by a short story by Gabriel García Márquez, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings (Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes), is adapted for the stage by Dan Colley, Manus Halligan and Genevieve Hulme Beaman, skilfully directed by Colley, with set and props designer Andrew Clancey, lighting designer Sarah Jane Shiels and composition & sound designer Alma Kelliher.

Halligan and McCartney are perfectly cast and interact well together – much of the humour comes from their quirky interactions. There is a fascinating hierarchy to the pair and this drives the story forward: Halligan’s character narrates with great clarity and also sings and produces electronic sample sounds onstage that repeat and form a wonderful background to her vocalisations. McCartney’s silent shyness, awkward physical characterisation and facial gestures are very relatable. McCartney also provides several effective sound effects and both join in as chickens walking and squawking in the chicken coop!

The pacing of the performance works very well and can be followed easily. Although there is a strangeness to this story and it’s happenings, it is all effectively brought to life by the detailed object puppetry and two physical storytellers – plus some delightful silly moments- which culminates in a magical ending.

Adults who enjoy magical realism stories and creative object puppetry will enjoy the performance as much as the young!