Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

Baba Yaga, Traverse

Stick By Me, NEAC

Mary Brennan, four stars

Slavic folklore imagines Baba Yaga as a supernatural being who swithers between doing good or being scarily villainous. Christine Johnston’s fabulously imperious, garishly frocked, saw-playing (!) Baba Yaga catches that double-edged personna superbly, as she sashays into the timid, wistful life of concierge Vaselina and causes havoc. When Shona Reppe’s ever-dutiful Vaselina is harangued by residents complaining about Baba Yaga’s unruly activities, we wonder – will she survive? But even quiet mousy souls can have flamboyant dreams, and in this Scottish/Australian co-production (for ages 7-12) the comedy and magic lie in how Vaselina is lured by Baba into throwing caution – and her drab grey parka - to the wind and flying free. Witty animations (by Chris Edser) extend the action across various surfaces, adding to the mood of deliciously quixotic anarchy.

There’s no anarchy, only rules and (unseen) voices saying ‘No!’ in Stick By Me, co-created (for 3-6 year olds) by Ian Cameron and Andy Manley and performed – with supportive soundscore by Will Calderbank – as a wordless solo show by Manley. On-stage, Manley is the solitary bod who makes an imagined friend out of an ice-lolly stick, marks out a personal fiefdom with boundaries of sticky tape, invents games to pass the time. Manley’s persuasively nuanced performance – where facial expressions and body language speak volumes about loneliness, companionship,the shock of unexpected loss – encourages the audience to look at everyday stuff in a new and creative way. And when accidents do happen - and not even sticky tape can mend what’s been broken – the narrative doesn’t shrink from that dark truth because injury, and death, are part of life’s learning curve. Coping, going forward, staying curious, being yourself – it’s all part of growing up... What a wonderfully wise and big-hearted show this is – one that will stick in the memory, whatever age you are.