[Victoria Fringe Festival ’14] Shadows are Abound in Vasilisa, A Review

Props have to go to a very stylized theatrical presentation of Vasilisa the Beautiful, a Russian fairy tale that can easily fit right in a Disney Universe.

Vasilisa the BeautifulPresented by
Ouroboros Shadow Pictures

Props have to go to a very stylized theatrical presentation of Vasilisa the Beautiful, a Russian fairy tale that can easily fit right in a Disney Universe. However, this presentation is very dark and it has the feel of belonging in Fantasia more than as a light-hearted animated stand-alone product.

In this stage-version, shadow puppetry, sombre music and dance is used to tell the tale of a young girl tasked by a wicked step-mother to bring back fire from the witch, Baba Yaga. In her spiritual journey through the woods, she learns about courage as she faces the terror borne from the elements. Baba Yaga is the Russian version of the Wild Man of the Woods from Celtic tradition. The only reason to seek this type of “creature” out is to find wisdom.

In what Vasilisa discovers is an ability to challenge her stepmother after meeting and finding council with Baba Yaga.

For audiences, what they will get out of this show is a surreal phantasmagoric experience of light and wonder as the story unfolds through the use of mise-en-scène. The characters have no speaking lines. Everything is narrated by Adam Lipsky (who does double duty as the keyboardist during the 50min show) and Max Judelson (providing a spell binding cello accompaniment).


Dancers Marlie Couto and Courtney Mazeika provide mesmerizing performance art that feels more than just ballet as they create weird symmetries against a stage light to cast their silhouettes onto a screen. The technical achievement that deserves the most praise is with how everything has depth when projected against a flat screen. The use of intricate paper cut-outs are outshined by the use of a three-dimensional model of the woods as a prop. When a light is properly cast through the latter object, viewers will feel like they are walking in a forest too! The skill of how to manipulate light by Alisa Javits really has to be commended. The dual images that are superimposed over each other to create Baba Yaga certainly make her quite the imposing supernatural figure. But for anyone who has problems with strobe lighting, the best advise is to close the eyes for a moment and any shaky feeling will pass.

Even though the music and dance outpaces the narrative, this play should not be missed. It has been years since the Fringe Festival offered a play that made skillful use of light on stage. Some stage effects can be tricky to pull off, and if there is to be any comparison, this show ranks right up there with Fringe 2010’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Mesmerizing is all the audience needs to know before they are captured by the light.

4 Blokes out of 5

Continues at the Metro Studio Theatre (1411 Quadra) on:
Mon, Aug 25 • 8:45pm
Tue, Aug 26 • 7:00pm

Information on future tours (if planned) can be found at Ouroboros Shadow Pictures Facebook page here.

Reprinted from Two Hungry Blokes.

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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