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The House with Chicken Legs | Southbank Centre

Award-winning theatre company, Les Enfants Terribles, has ambitiously brought Sophie Anderson's young adult novel, The House with Chicken Legs, to life at Southbank Centre. Co-directed by Oliver Lansley and James Seager, this production blends theatrical action, music, puppetry, and animation.

Inspired by Slavic myths and legends shared by Anderson's Prussian grandmother, the narrative centres around 12-year-old Marinka (Eve de Leon Allen). Marinka resides in a magical house with massive chicken legs, with grandmother Baba Yaga (Lisa Howard). This mystical dwelling has the extraordinary ability to move, wandering from one place to another. Caught between the grandmother's ancient duties and the desire for a different existence, Marinka grapples with identity and the choices that must be made. Beyond its visual spectacle, The House with Chicken Legs serves as a poignant exploration of themes such as death, afterlife, loss, grief, acceptance, and joy. The delicate yet honest portrayal of these elements invites the audience to tap into their imagination and forge emotional connections with the characters and narrative.

The six-member cast, comprised of actor-musicians showcasing an impressive array of talents ranging from the accordion to saxophone, flute to electric guitar, delivers a commendable performance. Eve de Leon Allen stands out as the lead, playing the role with childish innocence and vulnerability. Michael Barker makes noteworthy contributions as Ben, who falls for Marinka. Elouise Warboys portrays Nina, exuding innocence and emotions, resisting the journey beyond the gate, and Stephanie Levi-John delivers a powerful portrayal of the ancient Yaga. Special mention goes to Dan Willis, who breathes life into the puppet Jackdaw.

Despite minor pacing issues affecting the narrative flow and a few technical glitches, the overall performance remains somewhat engaging. The strength of the production lies in the evocative music by Alexander Wolfe, carrying the weight of the story. However, sound balance issues, leading to difficulty hearing some dialogue and lyrics, slightly detract from the overall experience. Nevertheless, the music remains a driving force, enhancing the emotional depth of the production. Central to the narrative is the house, portrayed with creativity in the set design by Jasmine Swan, which unfolds like a pop-up book. Lighting design by Jane Lalljee and video design by Nina Dunn transports the audience into the mystical world of the story, with the spectacle enhancing the magical atmosphere and child-like wonder of the narrative, without overshadowing the overall narrative.

The House with Chicken Legs takes audiences on an imaginative and emotional journey, inviting

them to reflect on the complexities of growing up. It remains a tale of endearing characters, mystery

and fantasy, brought to life with big-heartedness and capturing the spirit of Anderson's story while

adding layers of enchantment through live performances, music, and stunning visual elements. However with a runtime nearing three hours, including an interval, it poses a challenge to the

attention span of its target (family) audience. At its core, The House with Chicken Legs transcends

being just a play; it becomes a spiritual journey that resonates with the audience, leaving a lasting

impression of hope and magic.

The House with Chicken Legs plays at the Southbank Centre until 30th December. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Rah Petherbridge


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