Linbury Studio Theatre
Royal Opera House
When better a time than Christmas to rediscover the child in you that is buried deep beneath jaded layers of cynicism. This year Will Tuckett's production of Pinocchio appeals to that lost child, enticing him or her out just in time for Santa Claus.
Pinocchio takes the well known tale of the wooden boy who dreams of becoming a real live boy. Pinocchio takes you along on his journey of self discovery as he disobeys his father Geppetto, encounters the illusive Stromboli and his two sidekicks Fox and Cat who seduce him to "The Land of the Toys". He manages to escape just in time before being turned into a donkey, only to be gobbled up by a hungry shark before finally fully realising his dream and becoming a real boy with the help of a Blue Fairy who is never far from his side.
Primarily a dance piece which incorporates music, lyrics and speech, this production of Pinocchio utterly appeals to the child's imagination. The Quay Brothers' whimsical set design fuses together vibrant colours and an array of textures to create a world of pure fantasy where a stormy ocean is imagined using a vast, billowing sheet powered by the performers or a translucent shark allows us to see poor Pinocchio and Geppetto awaiting their fate in his stomach. We even had the pleasure of being showered with sparkle.
Set in a non-exact place where the inhabitants speak with non-specific European accents, this magical world transcends conventional language - "some of it might be familiar, some of it a little strange" - to tell the story through dance and music. Martin Ward's score was at times haunting, at others magical, seductive even frantic; enhancing but never distracting from the stylised action on stage.
The performers communicated via song and expressive dance, balletic in style but with a twist, reminiscent of dancing toys that come awake once you've gone to sleep. When speech was necessary, whether it be familiar or nonsensical, Phil Porter's script allowed the plot to develop rather than jolting you out of this dream world.
An extremely agile Christopher Akrill bought a wonderful amount of excitement to his credulous Pinocchio. Supported by an impressive cast, Andrew Corbett was beautifully naïve and endearing as Geppetto. The flamboyant Stromboli (Ewan Wardrop) was extravagant and exuberant and who could help but be seduced by Charlotte Broom as the very "foxy" fox.
As an adult there are many aspects of this production to appreciate that would possibly escape a child's attention and perhaps at times some scenes were a bit involved for a child. However there was none of the audible chit-chat from distracted children synonymous with children's productions and, whilst there was a lack of giggling as some of the humour passed them by, this production had children and adults alike captivated.
Something a little different to the usual pantomime, to quote Geppetto, this "exkellant" production of Pinocchio gives you permission to tag along with the kids and venture into another world where sometimes dreams really do come true.
Playing until Saturday 5th January, 2008
Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan