Yana and the Yeti review at 1532 Performing Arts Centre, Bristol – ‘delightfully designed’
Yana and the Yeti is set in a world of snow and ice, deep dark forests and mythical creatures nestling between the trees. Pickled Image and Hattie Naylor’s new family show for over-fives, uses this fairytale location to tell a story with a darker edge.
The young protagonist arrives alone in the snowy village. She doesn’t speak the language and she can’t walk on the icy terrain. Bullied by the blue-eyed children, Yana is abandoned in the forest, where she meets a friendly, vegetarian baby Yeti who has lost his blankey. They pair bond over the universal language of fart jokes.
Language is important to Yana and the Yeti. The deaf-friendly story is told through mime, puppetry and an invented language that mashes together an assortment of European languages. Like Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, it is instantly understandable despite the made-up words.
Director Emma Lloyd’s production has the puppets switching between being full-size on one side of the stage and minute figures navigating a birds-eye-view frosty village on the other. Performers and puppeteers Vicky Andrews, Adam Fuller and Nikki Warwick move the marvellously detailed characters, the work of Pickled Image and Emma Powell, between the two with precision.
Dean Surdon’s lighting provides a convincingly Nordic backdrop, switching between the midnight sun and the Aurora Borealis. Yet the real beauty is how the show unpicks the experience of immigrants, from lazily mispronounced names to exclusion in the playground. Both Yana and the Yeti are outsiders, but both end up with a friend.