Thursday, 20 August 2009

Baba Yaga Bony Legs - 3Bugs Frings, Edinburgh Fringe

Baba Yaga Bony Legs
By 3Bugs Fringe Theatre
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Fringe Rating: 3 Stars

This play has one of the most interesting concepts I’ve seen, or rather not seen, this festival. Performed entirely in the dark, with the slight exception of moments of torchlight, Baba Yaga Bony Legs is a intelligent and innovative take on the clasic Russian folktale. The audience are led in to the space in twos and threes and seated by torch-bearing ushers. Once everyone is in and the doors are closed we are completely in the dark, and the storytelling begins.

A simple tale of a kindhearted child, a wicked stepmother and a iron-toothed witch, Baba Yaga is generally accepted to be the basis for the similar tale of Hansel and Gretel. However, in this story our heroine has noone to help her when her cruel stepmother demands she go to fetch some thread for her from her sister in the woods. On reaching the cottage, Marie is surprised and frightened to see that the house is on chicken legs and clearly inhabited by a witch. Due to Marie’s own good nature, and a little help from her friends, she escapes and returns home where her stepmother gets her come-uppance and Marie and her father live happily ever after.

As the play relies entirely on the actors’ vocal expertise and a lot of physical contact with the audience, a healthy imagination is a must for this production. At various points we were grabbed, hissed at, and had water and breadcrumbs scattered over us – all integral to the creation of the world of the play. Without our eyes our other senses were assaulted with touches, smells and sounds, by and large to great effect.

Unfortunately, with such a reliance on vocalisation, some of the young actors fell a little short, with articulation an issue and an occasional failure to fully commit to the characters. They were also competing against loud music from the venue next door, so there were times when, through no fault of their own, they were drowned out and important moments were lost. When there were moments involving light, they were often a bit quick as the audience needed to time to adjust their eyes so couldn’t take in the visual moments before they were gone.

There were a couple of cod fringe references, including a ‘mistake’ happening and voices from the dark apologising and saying ‘this shouldn’t happen at the fringe’. I could’ve done without this, as all it did was distract from the story, and there was a very odd Benny Hill chase scene which didn’t entirely gel.

Overall a strong piece of theatre and well performed, although it suffered from a few moments of concept over content. At the end the lights came up, and although the actors want to show the play has ended and take a bow, I did not feel it was the best decision as it jolted me very suddenly out of the world they had so painstakingly created.

SweetHeart, 6-16 Aug, 15:00 (15:45), prices vary.
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