Both family friendly and dealing with enormous things, it seemed sensible to deal with the turnips and the wings together. The week began with an over-sized vegetable and ended with a very old man with a wingspan bigger than any albatross. Both are recommended Christmas viewing. Let's begin the wings...
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings @ Little Angel Theatre
The world has been sad since Tuesday and the villagers’ teeth are picking up radio signals. Inspired by a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this wondrous family show is as equally suitable for grown-ups as it is kids – on the night we went, adults easily outnumbered children.
A sleepy village plagued by crabs and exotic ailments is visited by a strange winged creature – a very old man with silver skin and mirror eyes, who sings gentle songs in a mysterious tongue. He’s locked up in a chicken coop and people flock from miles around to touch his healing feathers.
The story is funny and the visuals a delight, but the play has a depth that adults will appreciate. Themes of greed and death, and of the ill treatment of aliens, create an atmosphere that is unnerving as well as enchanting. This isn’t a show that treats little ones with kid gloves. The handiwork of the ever brilliant Kneehigh, the script, the puppets and puppetry are all top notch. One of the best puppet shows we’ve seen this year.
The Enormous Turnip @ Jackson’s Lane
Good fun and full of song, this is a festive show aimed squarely at kids. Adult audience members without a little person in tow would feel odd. But if you have a young child to treat this Christmas, The Enormous Turnip would be a great choice. The second half is suitably interactive for those that get the fidgets after too long in a dark theatre.
There’s a third person in the relationship of Mr and Mrs Chickweed and it’s called an allotment. They even live there, in a teeny, tiny shed. Poor Mr Chickweed is desperate to retire from the best veg competition circuit, but Mrs Chickweed is obsessed. She persuades him to stay put and help her grow a prizewinning turnip. You can guess what happens next.
Energetic acting, puppetry and an inventive set from Stuff and Nonsense help to re-pot the much loved tale of the enormous turnip. We most loved the cameo appearance by a slug puppet and the fantastical use the turnip is put to at the end. The story is a simple one, enlivened by charming songs. You’ll leave wishing all cauliflowers could talk.
UPDATE: A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is back at Battersea Arts Centre from 3-20 January 2013.