Above The Stag Theatre, London – until 11 January 2019
Guest reviewer: Giuseppe Barone
It’s the time of the year everybody more or less loves. May it be for the lights, may it be for the presents, may it be for a good pantomime. It is a tradition. It is a national treasure. Most of them are child-friendly and also played by children. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Pinocchio No strings attached is a pantomime. You cannot bring your children there!
But it still remains an exhilarating pantomime. This year Above the Stag Theatre offers us a classic inspired by Carlo Collodi’s famous novel. Geppetta (Matthew Baldwin) and her niece Cornetta (Christy Bellis) are fugitives from Rome and try to hide in Placenta, a small, sunny, joyful little town in Italy near the seaside. Placenta is not a fun city for an LGBT+ community… but the fun is yet to come.
Fatima (Dami Olukya) a shiny fairy is about to put a nice spin into Geppetta’s life and grants her a wish. Geppetta only wants to love someone, but no one in town is right for her despite the locals’ multiple offers. So, one night one of her puppets becomes a handsome young man.
You all know the story of Pinocchio. Every time he tells a lie, his nose grows longer and longer. For Pinocchio by Bradfield and Hooper something else grows longer and longer and you can guess what that is.
All the elements of the famous novel are there. The Cat Chianti (Briony Rawle) is exhilarating, jumping ship as soon as she can but in the end, she is a faithful cat. Figaro the fox (Christopher Lane) is the unfortunate villain, but he does a very good job at keeping the audience friendly entertained. But in the end, it is a play at the Above the Stag so love must prevail.
After a few twists here and there LGBT+ love does prevail and everyone, in the end, finds the more or less expected soulmate. Every character is exquisitely well played by the actors. No one remains in the background. The audience falls in love with the handsome and naive Pinocchio (Jared Thompson), sympathises with the struggles of gay football player Joe (Oli Dickson) who finds his strength to come out, and rejoices when love finally finds Pedro (Shane Barragan) a local boatman who does not give up his dreams to be loved by the most beautiful woman in Placenta.
One might have guessed this is not Pinocchio’s original tale, but it is an originally inspired LGBT+ version of Pinocchio where in the end strings are attached and quite happily so for everyone! And there is even a whale! Well, not a real one!
The pantomime is light, time flies, the vocals are extraordinary, especially Matthew’s!
The interaction with the audience is superb. At times it feels like you are at a Drag Queen performance.
Behind the scene, the work must be enormous. You don’t feel a noise, but the scene changes so dramatically that it looks like the actors are on a different stage. So, a praise really also goes to the stage management team and the scenic artists.
A very well constructed pantomime with an unexpected and cleverly designed LGBT+ twist skilfully directed by Andrew Beckett
If you are up for an LGBT+ pantomime, a good laugh or simply want to forget your struggles for a couple of hours, this is the show not to miss.