Hag

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© Richard Davenport

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'Hag'

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© Richard Davenport

'Hag'

This is a review of the show in its 2013 Edinburgh Festival run.

On a dirty, low-lit set surrounded by human skulls sits Baba Yaga, a revolting old woman who promises to eat as many little children as she can get her hands on.

The character from Slavic folklore – a witch from the woods who likes to munch on tots – is at times terrifying and far from anything in the sanitised versions of the fairytales we're used to. Theatre company The Wrong Crowd have tapped into a dark, threatening story which is more for adults than for children.

That said, this piece will likely appeal to anyone brave aged ten or over. It's scary, but there's a happy ending of sorts. The innocent but tenacious Lisa (a sweet Sarah Hoare) faces her fears and tries to outwit the nasty old woman.

Baba Yaga, played with an excellent haunting menace and gruff Scottish accent by Laura Cairns, is part-actor, part-puppet. Her huge disgusting head hangs off Cairns like a weird wart-covered alien. Other puppets on show include a strange, charmed doll and are manipulated subtly and beautifully. The rest of the characters, from Lisa's flaccid, useless father to her ugly stepsisters (à la 'Cinderella') are played brilliantly by Tom McCall and Theone Rashleigh.

The characters themselves – which include a hapless, protocol-obsessed version of the ferry boat driver from the underworld, as well as Lisa's revoltingly brash and sexually ferocious new stepmother – are very funny. They are typical of a production which is infused with a kind of anarchic charm and a strong whiff of magic.

There's poetry too in Hannah Mulder's script, which shows us an occasionally vulnerable Baba Yaga, who – it turns out – is perhaps not the nastiest baddie of this ancient story.

By Daisy Bowie-Sell

Event phone: 020 7478 0100
Event website: http://www.sohotheatre.com
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