I’m a misery when it comes to children’s literature, films, television (although my wonderful young whirlwind of a niece is changing that – Hey Duggie is my ride or die.
I’m ageing myself but I’ve never read or watched a Harry Potter. I’ve not watched a Disney film that wasn’t made post 80s and I am firmly in the camp of just not getting watching or reading anything made for children for my own entertainment since I ceased to be one myself. I don’t get it.
Ok, Thursday a sitting duck and doing it for blog, I got it. And I may even have shed a few carefully crafted years of cynicism.
The House with Chicken Legs is brilliant. End of.
Well I’d actually better write a bit more lest I be labelled a lazy little blogger.
But it is. Thursday night at HOME, I managed to put a very long working day/week/month behind me, got out of my own head and straight into a fantasy world that by the end made perfect sense to me.
The House with Chicken Legs (I know, marvellous isn’t it?) is adapted from the book written by Sophie Anderson, and (shock) although I’ve never read the book, it didn’t take me long for my buy-in to take place.
Marinka dreams of a normal life, where she can stay somewhere long enough to make friends; but there is one problem – her house has chicken legs and moves on without warning. For her grandmother is Baba Yaga who guides spirits from this world to the next. Marinka longs to change her destiny and break free from her grandmother’s footsteps, but her house has other ideas…
Is it me or does this not sound like the perfect premise for anything. It’s Monty Python on steroids with a delicious dose of the macabre.
And then the cast came out.
Rarely have I seen a cast work so hard.
Led by Eve De Leon Allen as ‘Marinka’. They are joined by Lisa Howard as ‘Baba’, David Fallon as ‘Ben’; Matthew Burns as ‘Jackdaw’; Keshini Misha as ‘Nina’ and Pérola Congo as ‘Yaga’.
And then some. For this wonderful ensemble act, mime, sing, dance and play their way through a whole host of characters, songs and instruments as the story takes us through a world that at the start shouldn’t feel logical but by the end you’re sad to leave behind.
The book is aimed at 9-12 year olds and deals with themes of death, grief, family, loneliness and love.
Now I’m here for the morbid, always here for the morbid. But despite fences made from skulls, a party in the kitchen with the dead and the living making mere cameos in proceedings, it was fun.
It was fun and it was happy and it was colourful and it was hilarious.
It didn’t feel patronising or condescending to its audience (who shouldn’t be limited to the under 12s – like I say, I’m starting to get it) but uncompromising. Uncompromising but appropriate and above all else, highly, highly, HIGHLY entertaining.
We haven’t even touched on the puppetry. A sucker for a puppet animal (My original ride or die being The Muppets) and when done right, can provoke as much emotion and wailing in me as those creatures they emulate – see War Horse.
Jack the Jackdaw has taken his place in my puppet animals who tug at my heartstrings hall of fame.
With houses emerging from the sky, video, music and projection literally taking us on a literal journey across land, sea, earth and beyond, everything was thrown at this production and it all landed perfectly. And those legs, those legs.
The story with its origins in Slavic folklore, the wonderful costumes and music played faithful homage.
Yes on Thursday, I happily left my cynicism behind and entered the world of the Yagas. And Monday morning when I re-enter the world of adult, work and my weary and wry take on ever-changing events, I’ll bring with me a little bit of a world where a house has chicken legs and nobody bats an eyelid.
I implore you to check out this show, which runs until 23 April.
Bravo cast, bravo Les Enfants Terrible, bravo HOME.
Full details of the performance and tickets can be found online at https://homemcr.org/production/the-house-with-chicken-legs/
All the info:
The House with Chicken Legs. has been adapted for the stage by Oliver Lansley from the novel of the same name by Sophie Anderson. The production is Directed by Oliver Lansley & James Seager with Set Design by Jasmine Swan; Music & Sound Design by Alexander Wolfe; Songs Co-written by Alexander Wolfe and Oliver Lansley; Costume & Puppetry Design by Samuel Wyer; Video Design by Nina Dunn; Lighting Design by Jane Lalljee and Original Illustrations by Melissa Castrillón and Elisa Paganelli © Usborne Publishing Ltd, 2018.