The Slavic myth of forest-dwelling witch Baba Yaga is reimagined in this dark fairy tale from theatre company The Wrong Crowd. Like a Roald Dahl book, it relishes disgusting things but has a sound moral tale at its heart.
The eponymous Hag, played with equanimity by fresh-faced Laura Cairns, is a fusion of puppet and human, with a false, gnarly hand and giant skull-like mask with sparse, thorny hair that Cairns operates at a distance from her face. The effect is creepy, but not so terrifying it’ll give kids nightmares.
The story is deliciously dark, skipping over any possible opportunities for schmaltz (a dead mother, poverty and war are all minor plot points in comparison to Baba Yaga’s love of cannibalism). It offers humour, charm and a bit of lovely gore. An unsettling atmosphere lingers throughout, created by the puppetry.
The small cast of four seems much larger because piggy masks representing the evil step-sisters are manipulated by hand when they aren’t worn. A cute, yet sinister doll appears to skip about as the performers pass it round with nimble fingers and a collection of glowing skulls hang around the set create an imposing air.
Our heroine, Lisa (Sarah Hoare), deceptively sweet in knee-socks and riding-hood jacket, is no damsel in distress; plucky and determined, she seeks out the hag-witch and slowly earns her begrudging respect. Not a bad role model for children.