A Very Old Man

02 08 2022

EDITED HR A very old man4823

UK Premiere of the award-winning A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings at Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Director Dan Colley brings Gabriel García Márquez’s darkly comic tale to the stage in a show to delight children and adults alike

Summerhall, 3 - 28 August, 10am [50 mins]

Dan Colley and Riverbank Arts Centre’s critically acclaimed, award-winning stage adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez’s A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings will have its UK premiere at Edinburgh Fringe 2022.

Following sell-out runs at venues across Ireland including The Abbey Theatre, this classic slice of magic realism comes to Edinburgh to enchant adults and children alike. 

In a kitchen, in a theatre, two storytellers and their audience find something remarkable — a very old man with enormous wings. The wise neighbour woman tells us he’s an angel. The priest says he’s an imposter. Pilgrims flock to see him, hoping to be healed by him, hoping for a gawp. They leave with something differe

What inspired you to make this adaptation of A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings?

It seemed like an impossible thing to adapt! It's so mercurial and strange and not much actually happens in the story. Like, if you were to do an adaptation where the characters played out the scenes it would be about 5 minutes long. But so much of the story happens in between and underneath the lines. Márquez is so adept at creating rich, mysterious worlds that he manages to do with two lines what other writers would take two chapters to convey. So the challenge was to create the feeling that the story induces, to blow up and expand its beats to see them and feel them. I think theatre does its best work as a sensory medium, rather than a literary or intellectual one.

What role do the puppets play in the production?

We have a few different kinds of puppets that do different jobs - and I'll have to be careful not to give too much away. But generally, the puppets are there to change the scale of the world. Sometimes they are small objects in a relatively large landscape created by (Set and Object Designer) Andrew Clancy that allow the audience to infer a vast and detailed world beyond what we show them.

At other times the puppets show the audience, without using words, that time has passed - because the child character in the play grows up. We use one particular puppet to reduce a character's movement to its simplest, most essential gestures which allows a certain clarity of emotion and also, we feel, expresses through theatre what Márquez captured in words

Do the puppets speak to the 'magic realism' of the book at all?

Yes, I think they definitely do. I always think of an interview Márquez gave where he said he was amused by people's praise for his work as very "imaginative", because he said that nothing in his work is not directly inspired by real events. "The problem" he said, "is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination".

For me, that is the perfect distillation of the magic-realist form. It's not that it's imaginatively magical. It's that it captures the magic of the reality we live in. For me, puppetry is just that - it's magical and spectacular to see a puppet come to life, or to see an object transform into a sentient being - but we also know how it's done. We can see the strings. It's not a magic trick, it's mundanely magical.

Why did you decide to bring the work to the Fringe?

As an audience member I love the festival. The frenetic energy, the constant risk and reward, taking a chance on a show or an artist is invigorating. As younger theatre makers we cut our teeth here; with Human Child and Bears in Space in 2015 and before that, a number of our company had formative experiences bringing shows to EdFringe when they were college.

The frenetic energy is infectious and I think it brings out a kind of gladiatorial edge which isn't always the best atmosphere to show your work in, but when it's the right show for it, it can really bring out the best in it. That said, it's becoming harder and harder to go to the Fringe with a show with any kind of design ambition. We're only able to achieve this technically challenging little show with support from Culture Ireland and with a great venue like Summerhall.

But the space for artistic, design, and financial risk is getting tighter. Only that we've been touring A Very Old Man for a couple of years are we confident that it can stand up to the Edinburgh Fringe milieu and become the stronger for it.