Hag at the Soho Theatre
The Wrong Crowd’s Hag is a visceral nightmare, and a delight to watch. Weaving together the Eastern Slavic folklore and fairytale of the witch Baba Yaga, the play works as both a traditional child’s story and an interestingly contemporary piece of theatre.
Laura Cairns is the terrific and gruesomely funny Baba Yaga: a lilting Scottish dialect, searching eyes peering round a voodoo skull mask, great bandaged claws for hands. Baba Yaga narrates, mockingly opening and closing the play with soliloquies. “I know what you’ve come for: a bit of gore, aye,” she tells the audience. And it is delivered.
We meet Lisa – played by Sarah Hoare – who quickly, and no doubt deliberately, falls into the Cinderella template. Forced to Baba’s house by her stepsisters (horrifying in their own way with League of Gentlemen-style masks) she soon finds herself feeding the witch kneecaps, a foot, a plate of chins. Set design is seriously successful here as the scene is dominated by a great bloody bib stretching from Baba Yaga’s chest to the other side of the stage. Baba is endearingly evil, a classic Roald Dahl villain.
Just like in Roald Dahl, each character is memorable, from Lisa’s tiny puppet friend who is moved delicately across the stage by the ghost of her mother, to the elaborately coiffed stepmother (Theone Rashleigh) who remarks to Lisa’s father “I can feel your muscles undulating!”. However, although memorable, the stepmother and her two garish children seem rather out of place. Their faux-American accents clash with the other actors’, their costumes juxtapose just a bit too far, and they are just a bit too irritating.
The reason the stepfamily don’t fit in with the play is probably because it is, other than this, perfectly executed. Skulls light up around the stage at different points to signify ghosts, a fence and faces in an underworld. Lisa buries one of these skulls as the play draws to a close, and a folk song starts up with three-part vocal harmony and two melodies. This fairytale performance demonstrates expert sound manipulation, inventive staging, and high calibre acting.
Hag is at the Soho Theatre until 20th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.