Lyttleton, National Theatre – until April 2018
Disney have given the stage rights of the Oscar-winning Pinnochio score to the team at the National Theatre who are on a mission to create their next theatrical spectacle. Based on the fable by Carol Collodi, this show tells the story of a Geppetto, a puppeteer who longs for a child. One night he is visited by a mystical lady who commissions a new puppet to be made out of her own enchanted wood. This puppet needs to strings and is for all intents and purposes, a boy… except for the fact he’s made of wood!
Marketed towards “Brave 8 year-olds and above”, this show is definitely darker and more sinister than the Disney classic. Featuring a strange Fox who’s tail is full of magic and a host of other not so kind characters, this definitely has more depth than expected. I was thoroughly entertained by both the child-aimed and adult-aimed jokes, of which there was a good mix and all were pulled off well.
The use of oversized puppets (designed by Toby Olie) is absolutely wonderful. The actors and puppets become one through their synchronised makeup and the way they move together. At first I was a little confused by the fact that the puppets mouths don’t move as they speak, however, this issue melted away almost instantly and I found the lack of movement especially striking in first act when Stromboli ( ) became deathly angry. The contrast between the dramatic voice of and the sinister smile on the puppet make my skin crawl.
As Pinocchio, Joe Idris-Roberts starts out thoroughly annoying, doing as he pleases with no care for his actions, however as he grows and develops, he becomes more likable and his journey of self-realisation is wonderful. He cleverly embodies childlike qualities and shows his ‘wooden’ side well, despite having no physical pointers.
As his conscience, Audrey Brisson is hilarious. Dramatic and obsessive she manages to warm the audience to her whilst remaining extremely humorous. Again the link between her and her puppet, helped along by another puppet master is absolutely outstanding.
Mention must also go to Mark Hadfield who is sincere but strong as Geppetto (along with David Kirkbride). Especially in the opening scenes his acting and voice are really shown off and he gives a lovely performance. Dawn Sievewright also deserves notice for her energetic performance as Lampy in Pleasure Island (however I do think this scene could’ve been cut down slightly).
This is a magical, heartwarming production which uses a variety of theatrical devices in the purest and most masterful way. I’d certainly urge you to get to the National to experience it for yourself and be reminded of the importance of love and family.
Pinocchio runs at the National Theatre until April 2018.
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan