Carlo Collodi, adapted by Mark Thomson
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Pinocchio! The whimsical tale of an enchanted puppet learning the difficult lessons in life as he runs from pillar to post and gets into jolly adventures and japes in 19th century Italy. The story is one familiar to most through the sanitised and much cheapened Disney cartoon, but those better read will know the origins of Carlo Collodi's cautionary tale and its deeper meanings as a allegorical story meant to teach the values of honesty and hard work to children.
Mark Thomson's version of this classic cautionary tale suffers from a variety of ailments, beginning with the utter lack of any real drive to the story. As with most such tales written before the 20th century, it is filled with harsh punishments and mishaps which befall the titular hero as he struggles along. The main problem in this case has been that the adaptation doesn't seem to be decided if this version is a more modern and kinder one, in the mode of the Disney cartoon, or closer the rather unkind original story. This fundamental flaw runs throughout the entire production with the cast seemingly as baffled as the audience as to whether the production was trying to be a pantomime or serious play. Adding in a series of soulless songs which feel decidedly forced and underline the juxtaposed ideologies battling it out.
The story is told ploddingly and with little emotion, with the enchanted puppet running from pillar to post and swinging between being hopelessly naïve and falling for the wicked schemes of the other characters, and attempting to be good and noble but still failing to accomplish much of any worth.
The acting and characterisation are fair to middling, with James Anthony Pearson's Pinocchio coming across as less in need of love and nurture and more likely a candidate for an ASBO. The rest of the cast are vague and forgettable, not to mention Simon Scott's kindly but cynical Gepetto seeming to have walked in from an entirely different production.
That is not to say that the production is lacking in other merits. The artistic side is highly accomplished by Robert Innes Hopkins with all manner of costumes and props being finely detailed and beautifully made, the background vistas especially are rendered perfectly and yet ironically only serve to further point out failings in the script: one gem being a throwaway line about it not being the full moon for some days, only for a full moon to descend instantly in the next scene.
The overall effect is somewhat shambolic and fails to draw an audience in. This is a fine example of why productions should be more precisely defined in aim, rather than left as a half-way house of good intentions.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan