You almost don’t care, so caught are you in the finely executed body language of the puppets – sorry, characters – as they interact on stage. Almost. Because a beautifully done final scene will eke out the realisation that you had hoped for all along...
But, back to the start: a very old man with enormous wings has just been blown into the town. A young boy has been sick for days, the seaside houses infested with crabs... when suddenly, he is cured! The crabs have gone. Is it the old man’s doing? Can he cure other things? The local priest says no, the townspeople say yes, which is it to be? You’ll just have to go along and find out.
Despite the overriding melancholia that underpins the vast majority of this show, it is deftly raised from the doldrums by Ian Ross and Benji Bower’s magical score, ensuring, despite the sad tale, that it’s the very opposite of depression that you walk out of the theatre with.
No one puppet master or creative can be easily singled out of the Kneehigh/Little Angel Theatre collaboration (which is led Mike Shepherd and Lyndie, Sarah and Joe Wright); they are a brilliant ensemble, working together to weave the spell of Marquez’s short story, replete with crowd-pleasing, crotchety old women, chickens and a cocktail drinking priest.
It is a tale of physical imprisonment, of inner beauty in an ugly facade, of human conscience and the irresistible call of what is potentially of another plane. So if the word ‘puppets’ for you encourages scary memories of seaside trips and Punch and Judy shows, banish them immediately. This is that mythical beast that few outside of Disney’s Pixar studios know how to create: a show that will enthral both children and the child inside each adult alike.
- Laura Tosney