The House with Chicken Legs tells the story of Marinka, the granddaughter of a Yaga (who stewards the dead to the afterlife). She and her grandmother travel around the world in their house with chicken legs, and she just wishes for a “normal” life where she can make friends and not spend all her time among the dead.
The entire cast work together seamlessly as a phenomenal ensemble. All incredibly talented actor-musos, Dan Willis must be mentioned for his wonderfully physical and vocal portrayal of Jackdaw – managing to create intelligent comedy from bird caws and puppetry; and Lisa Howard is everything one would wish from Baba – her warmth extends beyond the confines of the stage, and her comic timing is perfection.
While the performances are excellent, we do long for some more direct connection and engagement with the audience, especially considering this production is marketed to families. Additionally, we might ask for some stronger diction in places so every moment is clear in its story-telling. Speaking of the story, even allowing for the whimsy of such a magical world, some plot points appear out of nowhere with other threads left untied or resolved in a hurry. With some tightening up, Oliver Lansley's script – brilliantly funny and poignant throughout – really could be very special.
Though not all especially memorable, the songs that stand out really are fantastic! With upbeat folk tunes that get the audience clapping along and tapping their feet, these musical moments certainly shine and are thoroughly enjoyed.
The production is visually excellent. In particular, Samuel Wyer's puppets and costumes are beautiful and perfect for the tone of the piece. The set is very charming, though its movement around the stage feels clunky and takes away from the mystical feel of this story. Further, while the projections used are lovely, with stunning illustrations, the magic of this tale, while not lost entirely, is somewhat lacking.
A lovely piece of interesting and fun theatre with great potential, exploring complex ideas in a family-friendly space, The House with Chicken Legs plays at The Southbank Centre until 30th December. Tickets from £15: here.
Review: Penny Lane Photos: Andrew AB Photography, Rah Petherbridge