A fun modern spin on the classic Russian folktale
Reviewed at Queen's Theatre on 1 March 2019
Presented by Windmill Theatre Co & Imaginate / Christine Johnston, Rosemary Myers & Shona Reppe
Co-creators Christine Johnston, Rosemary Myers and Shona Reppe, working with Windmill Theatre Co and Imaginate, Scotland have produced a terrific modern version of the Russian folk tale Baba Yaga. Rather than the classic frightening old witch, with a reputation for eating children, this Baba Yaga is an eccentric, rather than scary, older woman. This witch has reached the age where she doesn’t feel the need to conform to the foolish rules others set and she no longer cares what other people think of her – she marches to a different drum.
Living in a multi-storey apartment block is probably not the best choice for someone like Baba Yaga, wonderfully portrayed by Christine Johnstone, in a brilliant costume which has just the right amount of eccentricity! Vaselina, she’s the receptionist in the block, in contrast wears a grey parka which mirrors her attitude to life – dull and quiet. Elizabeth Hay’s performance as this mousey character is spot on.
Vaselina is terrified when she has to confront Baba Yaga following complaints from other residents about her loud music. Here the set, which is very sophisticated, comes into its own – operating almost as a host of other characters. The chicken legs from the original fairy tale even make an appearance in this very modern take on a classic.
Amidst excellent animations, still photos and light projections on everything from chairs and tables to the very clever images projected on the lift doors, Vaselina nervously approaches Baba Yaga. She’s certainly dressed oddly but doesn’t really frighten Vaselina, although she is a little worried about the constant refrain of Baba Yaga always being hungry. Some very clever and amusing recorder playing ensues in order to persuade the prickly, rare night blooming cacti to flower – a brilliant metaphor for Baba Yaga’s own character and for what happens to Vaselina in the play.
Without giving away the story, I can say the animations only get better and better as the show progresses and we see the ‘true’ character of Vaselina emerge as she realises her dreams. Speaking of dreams, there is a fantastic animated Pop-Up Jungle, designed by Fleur Elise Noble for kids to explore in the foyer. There are also tables set up with paper and coloured pencils for audiences to write and colour their own dreams on ‘dream leaves’ which are then added to the dream tree.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Venue: Queen’s Theatre, Gillies Arcade / Playhouse Lane, Adelaide
Season: Sat 02 Mar, 2:00pm, 5:00pm; Sun 03 Mar, 2:00pm, 5:00pm; Tue 05 Mar, 10:00am, 1:00pm
Wed 06 Mar, 10:00am, 1:00pm
Duration: 50 minutes
Tickets: $49, Friends $42, U30/Child $29