Hag (4 stars)

This article is from 2013


credit: Helen Maybanks

The Slavic witch is given a new lease of life by The Wrong Crowd

Baba Yaga is the archetypal witch who lurks in the fairytale forest. Fierce and merciless – and presented here by The Wrong Crowd with an additional, genuinely threatening puppet head (the better for devouring children) – she is an even more terrifying version of the villain familiar from Brothers Grimm tales. But even though she states her ferocity in Hag – in an accent clearly from Scotland’s west coast – her behaviour is as honourable as it is beastly. The show doesn’t reclaim her as a heroine, but its portrayal of her is rounded and complex.

With the expected archetypal characters – the hopeless father, the heroic daughter, an evil step-mother and a pair of ugly sisters – Hag has the quality of a pantomime fantasy, but it’s given a realistic edge by designer Rachael Canning's stark set, whose skulls suggest both the dark forest and Yaga's home. Hannah Mulder's script leads the four performers – who swap roles with finesse – through an adventure that brings the heroine to a realisation that she has needs other than her departed mother.

The company's cunning use of masks and puppetry combines with Mulder's script to ensure that the story is clear and has the right amount of horror and comic relief to charm and enchant. There are no astonishing twists in the tale, but Hag is an honest, straightforward drama for older children and adults.

Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 25 Aug (not 13), 3.30pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10)


  • 4 stars

The Wrong Crowd. 'I only eat the ones who deserve to be eaten'. Lisa is given something by her dying mother. Something she doesn't want. Little does she know that learning to accept it might be the only thing that will save her own life. The Wrong Crowd reimagine Slavic folklore's extraordinary, child-eating hag-witch…