House with Chicken Legs review


The House with Chicken Legs brings a Russian folk story to life.

While the book by Sophie Anderson has been applauded as magical and a beautiful retelling of a classic, the play fails to deliver its full potential.

Brought up as a yaga, 12-year-old Marinka must learn to guide the dead to the stars.

Her grandmother Baba, an experienced Yaga, is the keeper of the gate to the world after death.

When the dead come to visit, Baba listens to their life stories and ushers them through the gate.

She desperately tries to pass on her wisdom to her granddaughter but Marinka wishes to stray from her path.

As their house with chicken legs moves location every two weeks, Marinka has no friends and has only Baba to talk to.

After meeting Ben, her first friend, Marinka dreams of having a normal life.

It is only when her grandmother mysteriously disappears that Marinka have to confront her destiny – whether to become a Yaga or live her own life.

For many in London, Russian folk stories are not familiar, and the clunky opening to the play leant no favours to helping the audience set the scene.

While the dead sing about their happy memories on earth, their words are lost on the audience as they are inaudible and the music too loud.

The cast are lazily positioned on stage and the lack of choreography to what is meant to be a musical show is vastly disappointing.

Luckily the show is immensely entertaining and visually intriguing, with costumes, set, sound and projections bringing the story to life. 

The idea of visually showcasing a house moving on stage is laughable, however the production pulls it off.

Mechanically operated chicken legs run on the spot in slow motion as the music and screen projections make the audience feel like they are falling down something similar to Alice’s rabbit hole.

It is wholly mesmerising, beautifully crafted and a masterpiece by the team led by Jasmine Swan, Nina Dunn, Jane Lalljee and Samuel Wyer.

It is a shame that the magic could not be replicated on stage.

The quality of the cast was good overall.

Marinka (Eve de Leon Allen) was a powerful figure and commanded the stage but at times was overly-theatrical making touching dialogue sometimes appear like shouting matches as they couldn’t contain the excitability in their voice.

That being said, Allen performed several spine-tingling moments with new found friend Ben (Michael Barker).

Overall, the vocals were of a high-class but the myriad of songs soon became undistinguishable as the music flitted only between uplifting rock and emotional ballads.

While The House with Chicken Legs is entertaining and unlike any narrative or performance seen so far at The Southbank Centre, it relies too heavily on on the visual and design elements.

With stronger direction on stage from Oliver Lansley and James Seager this could have been a feat.

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