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The House with Chicken Legs 3 female actors of multi ethnicities dressed in costume inspired by slavic folklore cheers and smile on stage

The House with Chicken Legs – An Enchanting Peformance for Ages 9+

Fans of Sophie Anderson’s book, The House with Chicken Legs, will delight in seeing the pages of her enchanting novel brought to life by the skilled stagecraft of Les Enfants Terribles, but this one is definitely for older children.

The Queen Elizabeth Hall’s otherworldly festive production, The House with Chicken Legs, harks of forgotten Christmas traditions when long winter nights were once whiled away with stories of the thinning veil between the living and the dead.

Christmas hasn’t always been the Walt Disney version we celebrate today; stuffed full of sweets, commercialism and joyful expectation. One of the reasons why I enjoyed this production as a festive treat is because it didn’t come trimmed with tinsel and forced gladness. This was a tale woven within the fabric of ancient tradition spiced up with plenty of fun and humour for the teens and tweens of modern times.

The House with Chicken Legs tells the story of Marinka (Eve De Leon Allen), a young girl who lives with her grandmother, the Baba (Lisa Howard), who guards the gate between the living and the dead, guiding souls to return to the stars.

Marinka, who is in line to be the next guardian of the gate, is lonely and longs for friendship. There is no friend to talk to, apart from a charming yet wordless Jack Daw (Dan Willis), and everyone new she meets disappears into the stars never to be seen again. And to top it all off, her house moves without any warning!

Like many teenagers she wants to forge her own way, discover her independence and enjoy life the way she wants to live it; resisting the call of her destiny, or at least the call the way her Baba hears it.

The multitalented cast, both skilled storytellers and musicians, brought the characters to life with a spellbinding blend of emotion and depth. Their performances transported us to the realm of Baba Yaga, where the line between reality and enchantment blurred in the most captivating way.

The musical score brought a gypsy like revelry to the stage with haunting and uplifting notes that resonated with the spirit of old Slavic tradition—skilfully weaving a narrative that echoed the timeless tales of Baba Yaga, adding a layer of cultural richness to the entire experience. The actor’s impassioned solos and duets were emotive and compelling while the Yaga (Stephanie Levi-John) in the second half brought the party as Marinka learned there is more than one way to guard the gate.

The set design, reminiscent of a gothic fairy tale illustration, painted the stage with the magic of Russian folklore. The chicken-legged house, a whimsical creation, stood as both a symbol of Baba Yaga’s mysterious dwelling and a portal to the otherworldly. The portal effects were epic and impressed both my 8-year-old son and his 12-year-old friend.

The puppets and animations brought a captivating multilayered dimension to the performance and my son particularly loved the Jack Daw.

The first half did feel like it could be slightly shorter. It being 7 pm on a school night didn’t help but if I were to be critical, I would say that some of the acts could be edited down without losing their charm.

However, it is such a charming tale and so well performed and inventive you would forgive it of this. In a culture that hushes up everything about death, this was a refreshing celebration of life and death and everything in between. I felt the message about communication, trusting your family and friends, where you come from, or your house with chicken legs as it were, to guide you in life was important for the target audience. Our loved ones can only help us find the route to our dreams when we are brave enough to authentically communicate our needs.

Sophie Anderson’s original story, The House with Chicken Legs, was inspired by her Slavic grandmother. If there is a spirit world that looks in on us from beyond the veil, I feel she would be very happy watching this production from the stars.

Further Information:

When: 13th –⁠ 30th December 2023, 1 pm, 2.30 pm & 7 pm

Where: Queen Elizabeth Hall, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

Tickets: £20-40

https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/performance-dance/house-chicken-legs

For more ideas for things to do with the kids this festive season. Check out our latest round up.

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