Untruths unveiled, reckless actions and distancing yourself from your carer, it’s all part of adolescence. But top this with chores such as making fences out of human bones and learning how to guide souls into the afterlife with your grandma and life’s a bit full on. Marinka (played by fabulous Eve De Leon Allen) longs to settle but then sometimes her house grows chicken legs and moves around the world. So, what can she do?
This is a Les Enfant Terribles adaptation of Sophie Anderson’s much heralded young adult novel, The House with Chicken Legs. The story is influenced by eastern folklore and Baba Yaga in particular – a feared and revered character. However, in this instance she is guiding her beloved granddaughter in the ways of the Yaga.
I love the trust that the company puts in the hands of the audience. For instance, as the show opens, a crow is worked by someone we aren’t meant to concentrate on, the performer wafting a fan to let us know that the bird is in flight. This is enough for us to buy into the fact that people are moving within the story, not characters but part of the house with chicken legs.
And so we relax into a story being told in abstract images. Great companies like Les Enfants Terribles trust the suspension of disbelief of children and adults alike. Not only that – they give us an utter belief in what we see.
It’s a beautiful production, a warm and colourful palette with folk art vibrancy in the costumes and the set. This is ensemble theatre at its best and makes it impossible to single out any particular element. A colleague and I took student Charlie Merson from Fairfield High School for Girls in Droylsden. Charlie had read the book and thoroughly enjoyed the adaptation, admiring the amazing staging, music and characters.
While the story allows us to bask in the many traditions and beliefs of an afterlife, the tale is one of grief and longing. Marinka recognises how incredible her life is, but she needs more and yearns for friends her own age. She’s sick of hanging out with people she only meets on their last day on earth. And although her grandma is kick ass, she needs more. This is a universal tale and does actually go around the world. On chicken legs.
Photos by Andrew AB Photography
The House with Chicken Legs is at HOME in Manchester until April 23, 2022.
For more information, click here.