Southwark Playhouse, London – until 14 August 2019
This retelling of the classic story of a toymaker and his toy puppet is surprisingly heartfelt and enjoyable – with plenty of messages for both children and adults to take away from it.
Performed by the British Theatre Academy as part of its summer season at the Southwark Playhouse, My Son Pinocchio Jr is a wonderfully colourful and lively production but can at times have some clunky transitions between scenes that can disrupt the flow of the show.
In this retelling, the musical sees Geppetto longing for a son but when his wish is granted by the Blue Fairy, he soon regrets his wish when discovering being a parent isn’t as easy as he thought. It is a story that has a strong moral message at its core about being careful for what you wish for, while at the same time warning parents about trying to change and shape their children’s futures without listening to them.
Seimi Campell’s production is filled with magic – particularly when it comes to being visually creative to keep the children in the audience thoroughly engaged. In particular, the way in which the Pleasure Island scene and the underwater sequence using shadow puppets are mesmerising and imaginative. However, the moments between scenes can be slightly clunky and a lot involves moving big boxes in a limited space that don’t really serve much purpose and can come across as awkward.
Yet, there are other details that do tend to work really well for example Gregor Donnelly’s wonderfully vibrant costume design that enhances the characterisations well, the playful choreography created by Holly Hughes and the effective use of lighting that enhances the more poignant moments perfectly.
Meanwhile, the energy provided by all of the cast keeps the audience thoroughly engaged from start to finish – with many of the young cast putting in excellent performances. A real highlight was Felix Hepburn as Strombolli – who put in a real flamboyant and exaggerated performance that worked really well particularly during the final scene as he tries to claim Pinocchio as his own.
Elsewhere, Joy Clark as the Blue Fairy offered some lovely vocals during numbers such as ‘Just Because it’s Magic’ with an extra sprinkling of magic charm in her performance that will enchant little girls in the audience. There was also excellent support from the Fairies in Training played by Amelie Williams, Amelia Ioannou, Paul Sarte and Albi Fenner – all with a sense of mischief and playfulness that really works.
Overall, My Son Pinocchio Jr is an immensely enjoyable family show that will enchant audiences young and old.
By Emma Clarendon
My Son Pinocchio Jr will play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 14th August.