By: Suzanne Cleave, TRP Reviewer
I must admit, I have not read Sophie Anderson’s book The House with Chicken Legs, but my daughter has at school. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was in for a magical treat of folklore, storytelling and more.
The House with Chicken Legs has been adapted for stage by theatre company Les Enfants Terribles.
The story follows young Marinka, who lives with her grandmother, Baba, in a house that transports itself from place to place. Baba is a spirit guide (a yaga) who guards the gate and helps the dead move peacefully from this world to the next.
She teaches her granddaughter that one day she will take on the role, but Marinka has other ideas. She doesn’t want to be a yaga. She wants to make her own way. She wants to live.
With a small cast of six amazing actors, the story transports the audience into an unforgettable world of magic and folklore.
Eve De Leon Allen (they/them) is incredible as Marinka. She makes you feel the turmoil she is facing as she is emotionally pulled in all different directions.
The relationship between her and her Baba (Lisa Howard, she/her) is joyous and real. Howard gives a captivating performance which leaves you wanting more.
It’s an emotional story. Along the way, Nina meets two characters that change her destiny forever. Ben, the young Geordie (Michael Barker, he/him), who opens her eyes, and also Nina (Elouise Warboys she/her), who does not want to cross the gate.
Special credit must go to Dan Willis (he/him), who plays several characters, and is the amazing puppeteer behind Jackdaw, the mischievous bird that provides a lot of laughs.
The set design is amazing. At its centre is the house, which opens and closes like a pop-up book. A magical house, that has long, furry chicken legs, able to transport it from place to place. It reveals a homely interior, and inside is the gate through which the dead are guided.
Images projected onto the screen behind, showing what happens after people pass through the gate are beautiful.
The production offers everything – it makes you laugh (the yaga party scenes will put a smile on your face. Stephanie Levi-Johns, she/her, is a treat to watch), it makes you cry, and it fills your cup to the brim.
Author Sophie Anderson said she wrote the book to help with her own grieving and to help children see death in a more positive way. I think all ages can take something from it, not just the young. It’s celebration of the living and the dead, and it’s magnificent.