THE TWISTED TALES OF BABA YAGA
10/10/2013 - 11/10/2013
Chromosomes and words create who we are. Out of the mouths of mothers and fathers come the tales that shape our minds and our identities.
The Twisted Tales of Baba Yaga takes us on a journey through the twisted tales we tell.
Thurs 10th & Fri 11th Oct
$15 full, $10 concession,
$50 group of 5
Mythic mash-up engages with weird energy and dreamlike ambiguity
Review by Gail Pittaway 14th Oct 2013
Cue Productions have a couple of productions in the 2013 Hamilton Fringe Festival and all have a theme of making sense of myth or history. Here the witch from Russian folk legend, Baba Yaga, is the centre of the action.
According to common versions of the story, Baba Yaga lives in a forest with a fence decorated with human skulls and chicken legs. She eats children, both naughty and good, and enjoys snacking on passing heroes, too. But sometimes she helps them.
Into this production are woven elements from Pacific and Maori culture, so the twisted tales become plaited up with other mythic tales. Mostly using mime and dance, with no actual dialogue but the odd few lines as chants or whispers, the ideas of threat and welcome, death and revival are performed.
With no programme and only a few of the players known to this reviewer, there will be no-one named here.
The play starts with several harpy-like figures, including two messengers on roller skates, roiling around a darkened set, with skulls on pikes as lamps lighting the gloom to reveal a cloaked figure in a shelter, up-stage, leaning on a long staff; Baba Yaga’s lair it would seem. And down-stage, a prostrate figure lies then is symbolically cut open, after which the harpies circulate offering equally symbolic bits of him on picnic plates to people in the audience, like demonic bridesmaids offering wedding cake. As it seems to have the consistency of jelly meat in the dark, not many seem willing to actually eat their portion – especially as served by keening waitresses with beak like masks.
The unfolding performance is accompanied by an eclectic sound track and uses a simple but very effective central set of four trailing sheets which form the shape of a canopy, and inventive uses of plastic as sheeting and later as prosthetics, creating some moments of grotesque humour. While it is not a logical narrative and is not easily followed, this mythic mash-up has powerful moments of energy and intensity.
There’s a lovely scene of stylised action song movements, with hands fluttering as pois in slow motion to lyrics about water. With only one male figure the female characters alternately fight for or over him, then toy with him in disturbing ways. He, or “He”, the scapegoat of children’s’ games, performs several Pacific-inspired slap dances and heroic stances, alternating with moments of passivity and submission. Will they serve him up to Baba Yaga, and what she will do with him, seems to be the driving thought.
It’s great to see such weird energy and invention both in performance and concept: a thoroughly engaging play of dreamlike ambiguity. Exactly what the Fringe should be dishing up to us on picnic plates.
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