Full Body and the Voice, The Shysters and York Theatre Royal
York Theatre Royal
Collaborating for a creative flourish to a new telling of an old tale, three excellent companies come together to create a captivating and thought provoking tale. This production sees Full Body and the Voice, The Shysters and York Theatre Royal working together in an invigorating tale recognising fairy tale and real life hardships and the story of becoming 'a real boy' in Pinocchio.
Full Body and the Voice as well as The Shysters are two companies that have been making theatre with actors with learning disabilities for a collective almost 20 years. Coming together with York Theatre Royal's dynamic staff they make a physical and vibrant half-term tale for young and old.
Their production returns to Carlo Collodi's Italian original for its source and therefore produces a darker but more challenging story. Pinocchio (Jon Tipton) causes havoc in his home town fishing village, goes to school, loses his father's money, is led astray to the fun of the fair ground, finds and looses friends and family and much more. All this on his ultimate quest to journey from being a wooden puppet to become 'a real boy'. This is indeed an 'extraordinary boy' who faces these real life hurdles and comes to know his humanity.
This is both a fantastically playful production, including an excellent sequence in which Pinocchio meets the puppets of a travelling puppet show, and a deeply reflective piece. Not only is Pinocchio mocked by his fellow school pupils for his difference but his encounter with the fairground becomes a modern day nightmare when he is effectively led into a dark and aggressive 'rave' by the excellent Laura Sanchez with a wicked glint in her eye.
The actors contribute brilliantly to the many different roles they play but Jon Tipton in the lead role is particularly noteworthy. Whilst his characterisation is excellent alone, his physicality as the puppet learning to walk, learning to use his hands and learning right from wrong whilst having all the endearing qualities of a mischievous but utterly loveable fresh faced boy is exquisite. He leads a fully engaging cast on his impish adventures, including Robin Simpson's affectionate Bunny and Peter Wandtke's calm and grounded Old Joe.
Rebecca Hurst's set is superb, making use of the practical and the dramatic in all things from blue tarpaulin to a fantastic central tree which transforms in Michael Hall's lighting to become the spine of the shark, amongst many other things. If there could be one criticism of this production it would be the score's somewhat overuse of the xylophone and its tendency to dictate the pace of the action which at times became repetitive.
This is an important and affecting collaboration to take youngsters to and teaches the journey to responsibility, generosity and humanity. Forget ever elongating noses and see this for a far more enlightening tale than anything presented by a cartoon cricket.
Reviewer: Cecily Boys