Baba Yaga, but not as you know her. Review of the new production at the Drayton Arms
I love the fact that there are still pubs with theatre spaces left in London. It's something rather quirky and special I think. Neither of us had been to the Drayton Arms in South Kensington previously, so we were pleased to be invited to the Little Lion Theatre's production of Yaga. The Drayton Arms is really a rather nice pub, and we decided to eat here before the show; always a bonus with a pub/theatre. A warm duck salad for me and a hearty chicken and ham hock pie with buttery mash for Alex.
We then headed upstairs to the theatre, seating around 60 people, this is an intimate space with banked seating so all the audience get a great view of the stage. The stage design was simple, yet managed to convey a fairy tale air about it.
So just who or what is Baba Yaga? She hails from Eastern European folk-lore and is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking woman with iron teeth. Baba Yaga may help or hinder those that encounter or seek her out. She is known for grinding bones, and for a skull-topped fence with always a space for just one more. Her house sits on giant chicken legs, and only Baba Yaga can find the door as the house spins. Particular emphasis is sometimes placed by narrators on the repulsiveness of her nose, breasts, buttocks, or vagina. In some tales a trio of Baba Yagas appear as sisters, all sharing the same name.
This production sets out to entertain us, and to explore how the story of Baba Yaga has been told through a male narrative, and sets the record straight.
First off we meet a university professor with a penchant for a younger man. A women unashamed of her sexuality she challenges thoughts about sex and aging, enough to lure a young student to her cottage in the woods, not 'her student' she's keen to point out - that wouldn't be ethical. And then he disappears.
What follows is a young police detective and a private eye trying to establish the truth. A fairy-tale 'whodunnit' ensues. Each of the cast members play multiple characters with clever but minimal adaptations to their costumes. It's fast paced and has many twists and turns along the way, and it seems that you can't trust anyone to be exactly who they say they are. I won't give any more away and spoil the fun.
I have to say that I was a little confused about the setting of the play. Baba Yaga at times had an Eastern European/Germanic accent, the detective and private eye had North American accents, but one of the funniest small characters that appeared had a London/Estuary English accent.
Overall it was a lot of fun, with masses of creativity and energy, and a plot that kept us on our toes.
Cast: Biz Lyon; Sarah Parker; and Robert De Domenici.
Creative team: Kay Brattan (Director); Alice Greening (Producer); Valentina Turtur (Set and Costume Designer); Barbara Ferrara-Badile (Stage Manager) and Amalia Rudström (Assistant Producer)
Drayton Arms Theatre, 153 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London. SW5 0LJ
Box Office: 0207 835 2301 http://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/
Date and Times: Tuesday-Saturday, 7.30pm, 1st – 19th November 2022
Tickets £15, £12 concessions
Nearest tube: Gloucester Road, and a 5 minute walk.