Monday, 19 February 2018

Yana And The Yeti - Pickled Image Family Theatre Review at The Met, Bury

Last week I was contacted by Pickled Image and asked if we wanted to review their performance of Yana And The Yeti at The Met Theatre in Bury, North Manchester. A family show with no spoken English and with a storyline almost entirely acted using puppetry, it was one of the most beautiful and serene performances I've ever had the pleasure to attend.

We're very familiar with The Met and this was the first time we've visited since the refit. It's an intimate, smaller theatre which is very friendly and has it's own bar, plus Automatic bar and restaurant next door. Pickled Image create family shows and Yana And The Yeti was suitable for age 5+. Ideal for my 7 and 9 year old boys.

The stage set was a movable, raised miniature snowy landscape that really was gorgeous, and beside it, also raised, two smaller snowy tables. Behind, projected onto the backdrop a huge snow covered mountain. When the actors/puppeteers came onto the stage, they took position and my 9 year old gasped aloud as he realised that what was being played out in close up larger scale on the snowy tabletops, was also being shown in miniature in the landscape scene on the left.

Yana And The Yeti really was just jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Different scale was used throughout - there was even standard live action with full sized people at points, as well as tiny miniatures and more usual size of hand held puppets.

The puppets are amazing. Their clothing was an older European style and they have incredibly emotive faces, with large innocent eyes and just a hint of a smile. The actors controlled their characters perfectly, evaporating into the background and taking such care with movement that you almost felt they were overseers, veiled spirits protecting their charges. I think we all gasped at points, and I know there were a couple of times that I felt a lump in my throat.

The storyline is one that isn't familiar to children in the UK in 2018, of a girl who arrives at a train station alone and the reactions of the local villagers to her arrival. She is teased as a newcomer and the other children are quite mean, which leads to her meeting the Yeti. It's a quite complex tale at times, yet the only spoken words used were a mix of languages and nonsense words, all of the storyline was conveyed through action and intonation. Somehow that just made it more magical and exotic and my 9 year old son was very keen to know where the story is actually based. I don't think it matters where or when, it just happened.

The Yeti doesn't make an appearance until some way through, but when he arrives it certainly takes the tale in a different direction. This is a story about acceptance and understanding of those who may be different to ourselves. We do not even need a common spoken language to communicate, we are all capable of empathy, care and kindness.

Yana And The Yeti is an incredibly gentle performance. The pace is slow and fluid, the lighting subdued and even when faced with a surprise Yeti, still calm. There are plenty of chuckles and giggles as we get to know the characters and see them interact, and there was laughter from a small boy in the audience which would have warmed any heart. It was a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon and in the words of my 9 year old last night "That really was lovely, wasn't it". Yes, yes it was.

Slightly long in the 3rd quarter for younger viewers, and with a storyline that might be both a bit scary for and beyond the understanding of smaller children, Yana And The Yeti is recommended for age 5+ and possibly best for 6+. At the end of the performance the audience were invited to 'meet the models' and my 9 year old was fascinated. The actors were incredibly friendly and patient, and my son had his burning question answered. The Yeti's lips and hands were made from a very dense but light foam.

Yana And The Yeti was brought to The Met Theatre in Bury by Pickled Image. It was a one day only show, but you can find future listing for Bury shows on The Met website and you can find out where Yana And The Yeti will be playing next by following them on Twitter!  (Lyric, Hammersmith Saturday 24th Feb / Cambridge Junction Sunday 25th Feb).

Our tickets to the performance were free for review. 

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