Baba Yaga @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Windmill Theatre and Imaginate's new take on the classic Slavic fairytale is bright, colourful and totally absurd

Review by Amy Taylor | 08 Jun 2018

For centuries, the threat of being consumed by an evil creature from the unknown has appeared in folk tales from around the world, and one of the most famous is Baba Yaga, an evil crone who lives on the edge of a forest and has an insatiable hunger, for children.

However, Windmill Theatre and Edinburgh International Children's Festival’s adaptation finds hope and humour in this fairytale, and recasts Baba Yaga (Christine Johnston) as an eccentric yet still-terrifying woman who lives on the top floor of an apartment building. She is the unlikeliest candidate to act as a spiritual guide and confidant to the building’s shy and stifled receptionist Vaselina (Shona Reppe) but, through a series of meetings, she becomes a colourful and unconventional life coach of sorts to the put-upon heroine of the play.

Created by Reppe and Johnston (alongside Rosemary Myers, who directs), this reimagining of Baba Yaga is an altogether more palatable offering than its darker, more monstrous predecessor. While Baba Yaga remains a magical creature with a ferocious appetite (her threatening refrain of “I’m hungry, I’m always hungry” never ceases to raise a smile) that many will recognise, the hunger she experiences is much like Vaselina’s; an emotional need, rather than a physical symptom. Both characters experience a hunger of sorts, which is satisfied by each other.

Bright, colourful, totally absurd, Baba Yaga is a hopeful fairytale for a new generation. Its powerful message of following your dreams and not letting anything – be it bullying neighbours or lack of confidence – stop you is one that needs to be retold time and time again. Featuring animated projections by Ailsa Paterson and Chris Edser, catchy tunes by Peter Robinson, and incredible costuming by Selene Cochrane, this show is a triumph of creativity and collaboration by some of the best artists working in the industry today.

Run ended
Part of the 2018 Edinburgh International Children's Festival