Ambassadors Theatre, London – until 30 August 2017
Guest reviewer: Rosalind Freeborn
Here’s a fun thing for the holidays! This production of The Adventures of Pinocchio will be a sure-fire hit for young audience who love nothing better than seeing other children performing and a vast cast of young actors will be strutting their stuff at the Ambassadors Theatre until 30 August.
With such a pool of talent to choose from, the cast will alternate during the run. Only the adults, Martin Neely as Geppetto – the indulgent father who fashions a puppet from a tree grown with love for his wife, and Lizzie Rees as the story-teller and fairy, remain constant and help maintain the pace.
The role of Pinocchio is played by two young actors, Nathaniel Purnell and Lucas Cooper. Our night saw Nathaniel in the title role. Whilst staying close to the familiar story the production used simple but imaginative design and set changes – shifting screens on wheels for various interiors and billowing fabric to represent the sea and the mouth of the whale in which, mysteriously, both father and puppet son find themselves trapped… until their escape.
This story considers the human condition – we must all make choices in life. Will we try to be honest, kind and considerate of others or will we be selfish, greedy and tell lies to get away with things? Every time Pinocchio told a fib his nose would grow – a sight which caused great amusement to the young audience.
As the story galloped along (the show lasts just over an hour) there were several standout performances from the young players on the night. Pinocchio’s naughty friend, Lampwick (James Sampson) was very well done with strong facial expressions and energy, especially as he turned into a donkey. The young Cat (Tilly Hopkins), in partnership with the wily Fox (Zane Heath) was very confident and witty. The Puppet Master (Tabitha Knowles) was suitably wicked and self-serving as she drove the hapless Pinocchio to perform.
The concluding scene, where Pinocchio acts selflessly to save his father elicited sighs of satisfaction from the audience and delight when he is magically turned into a REAL boy!
This show demonstrates the excellent work of the British Theatre Academy and its work in giving children both an opportunity to appear on a large stage and to help them gain confidence. I have no doubt that some of the talented actors seen on stage in this show will develop their skills and we will soon be seeing them again on the West End stage.