DramaReviewSouth West

Yana and Yeti – 1532 Performing Arts Centre, Bristol

Writer: Pickled Image and Hattie Naylor

Director: Emma Lloyd

Reviewer: Swati Arora

The Norwegian landscape is the protagonist in this visually stunning story of Yana as she finds herself in the middle of unfamiliar mountains and people, far away from home. This beautiful production is well-crafted and is performed to gorgeous music as Yana finds shelter and friendship in Yeti after she is abandoned by other children in the middle of nowhere.

Presented by Tobacco Factory Theatre’s BEYOND programme, Yana and Yeti is a puppet theatre show written by Bristol-based Pickled Image in partnership with Hattie Naylor who has received a nomination in the Olivier Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Theatre. Pickled Image is internationally renowned and award-winning company known for its visually striking puppetry shows. The team wrote this show while based in Northern Norway, and the aura of the show transports you to that ethereal space as you begin to love and care for Yana.

The show opens with a train arriving in a remote village and we see Yana get off in the middle of a snow-storm. Struggling with a big suitcase and slippery snow, Yana is not pleased with the unfriendly policeman. Her eventual arrival at her host family’s house does not solve her problems either, as the host’s three children are not very welcoming of her. It is not difficult to identify with Yana, a girl with a shy disposition, trying hard to find kindness in an alien land.

Attuned to its audience from the beginning to the end, the performers entertain the kids with well-timed comic effects, imaginative use of space and, of course, beautifully-made puppets. They also encourage participation from the audience as the policemen move around looking for Yana when the village family cannot find her. The parents seemed as joyous as their kids, as giggles and laughter could be heard throughout the performance. A life-sized Yeti towards the end is a real treat for the kids. The audience members are also given the chance to interact with the puppets and the performers after the show.

Even as the show is engaging, there is potential for a more nuanced story-telling. The moment which focusses on Yana meeting Yeti for the first time deserves more time and complexity. There are classic elements from children fairy-tales which, while adding warmth and humour, at times, make the narrative predictable. The performance could also benefit from the use of English language, even if it is sparsely used.

Yana and Yeti is a feast for the eyes and offers something for people of all ages – from young children, their parents as well as the grandparents.

Runs until 25 October 2017 | Image: Contributed

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