Mar 15 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆     Magic energy

Traverse: Tue 14 – Sat 18 Mar 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

BABS, the latest Play, Pie and a Pint at the Traverse, is an endearing work; funny, frothy and deceptively serious, but occasionally pulling in too many directions at once.

In Morna Young’s play with songs, presented with Oran Mor and Aberdeen Performing Arts, Bethany Tennick plays Aberdonian quine Lisa, disappointed by her best friend Shelley’s decision to put new boyfriend, Gareth, above their traditional holiday.

Bethany Tennick in BABS. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

An unexpected competition win, however, sees Lisa on a forest retreat with the titular Babs. Babs is based in a house perched on chicken legs that is able to move around – which should instantly ring bells for anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with Slavic folklore.

It is not giving much away to mention the more supernatural elements, especially as Baba Yaga is named in the first line of the play’s description on the Traverse website. The magical facets are present from the start, and coexist more or less happily with the stories of friendship, self-fulfilment, and owning your own narrative.

This is all expressed in an energetic, couthie, sweary Doric that has considerable appeal. Young’s dialogue is simultaneously well observed and fierily heightened.


It has to be pointed out that even those of us with a high tolerance of cursing might notice the language. One of the musical numbers is entitled Fit the Fuckety-fuck, with these words making up a large proportion of the lyrics. Whether you find that charming or off-putting will be a good barometer as to your overall enjoyment.

Bethany Tennick in BABS. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Lisa is told at one point that her vocabulary is chosen for defensive reasons. This just points up the potential problem, just as an almost throwaway remark about the current pitfalls of a Russian-derived story seems overly self-justifying, as if Baba Yaga was somehow responsible for the foreign policy of Putin.

In the end, although the various narrative strands are plaited with some dexterity, they also pull against each other to some degree. The end result is not quite as cohesive as it promises to be; the denouement is a shade drawn out, never quite as compelling as the set-up.

genuine gusto

Tennick does invest the material with genuine gusto, bringing into life not only Lisa, but also the other characters mentioned in the tale. There is a real presence to her stage persona and the songs (for which she provides the music to Young’s lyrics) are discharged with considerable glee.

Beth Morton’s direction is fluid and versatile; the visual problems inherent in a one-performer show are largely avoided. Gemma Patchett and Jonny Scott’s set, as so often, makes beautifully evocative use of limited space and resources.

The wilful hitching together of disparate elements is one of the things that makes this production so likeable, even if it ends up being less than the sum of its considerable parts.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 March 2023
Daily: 1pm

Tickets and details: Book here.

Bethany Tennick in BABS. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan


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