The Night of the Big Wind is an innovative puppetry performance inspired by the book of the same title, written by Peter Carr. It tells the story of coastal town Portavogie on the Bards peninsula in Northern Ireland and one young boy’s battle to survive in the freak storm that wiped out much of Ireland in 1839.
The show has no dialogue and relies heavily on music and visual representation. The visual theatre had little to convey other than the dramatic experience of the boy’s battle to survive the storm. Live melancholic Irish folk music effectively combined with a wind and thunder machine to recreate the dramatic weather conditions, the volume increasing at times of intense wind outbursts, the wind machines blowing through the audience.
Another outstanding element of the show was the imaginative use of puppetry. The cast constructed both a life sized puppet and a smaller one to allow it to appear in two ways. He was either appropriately sized for being inside his humble abode or perfectly in proportion with the objects of the set. This innovative use of puppetry effectively created the impression of the wild, steep landscape of Northern Ireland.
Despite the puppeteering elements, the performance was heavily dependent on music and the musical performance was a weak. Too reliant on the cheap acoustic guitar that gave off the occasional fret buzz, the audience was distracted from the atmosphere the scene was trying to create. An investment in a new guitar with a more wholesome sound may improve this performance significantly. But for its inspiring visual performance and innovative use of puppetry The Night of the Big Wind is a production that deserves to be seen.