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The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio

Russell Dean
Strangeface Theatre Company
Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio
The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio
The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio

There was excitement in the air as the audience of children and adults waited for the start of Strangeface Theatre Company’s The Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio at the Brewery Arts Centre.

The stage was open and as the houselights went down the cast of four bounded in, chattering, laughing and dashing into the audience, chatting and looking for sweets. Strangeface is a company that specializes in mask work, the masks are excellent and well used in this production.

In song and speech the cast quickly introduce us to the story.

Pinocchio is set in a small fishing village on a small island off the coast of Italy. A fierce sea monster is terrorizing the village and the fishermen have been unable to leave the harbour to fish, and the villagers are at the end of their tethers.

The harbour master, Signor Cherry finds a log on the shore and takes it to poor, old and lonely Gepetto the village puppet maker to chop up and burn. The log is soon seen to have strange powers as it speaks and throws itself about, mystifying Cherry and Gepetto.

Once Signor Cherry has left, Gepetto is inspired to take the log to his workshop and works throughout the night to create an amazing, life-sized puppet, Pinocchio. After a few hours' sleep, Gepetto returns to his workshop where he meets the bright and energetic puppet-without-strings Pinocchio.

Gepetto realizes that Pinocchio will need educating and sells his only coat to buy Pinocchio a spelling book so he can start school and learn to be a proper boy.

Off Pinocchio goes, full of enthusiasm and good intentions but oh how easily his attention is diverted. On his way to school he meets Lampwick, a young ne’er do well, who tells him about the travelling show setting up in the village. Off they go and they meet the crafty Puppet Master, his minion and the wondrous Puppet Booth from the Land of Toys.

Pinocchio’s downfall starts; he is given 5 gold coins by the puppet master, which he starts to take home to Gepetto. However along the way he meets the scheming Mr Fox and his glamorous sidekick, Susan, who soon hatch a plot to relieve him of his money. Pinocchio is on a downward spiral; full of good intentions, he is easily diverted and led astray.

Using masks, puppets, music and songs to great effect, the play goes on to chart Pinocchio’s downfall in a bright tale of caution. He is so good-hearted and believes everything he is told until he loses everything.

Gepetto is distraught and keeps on looking for his son, eventually overcoming his fear and rowing out to sea, planning to search along the coast. Pinocchio also ends up in the sea and both are swallowed by the sea monster. Together they defeat the sea monster but Pinocchio is lost at sea.

Ultimately all works out well, Gepetto and Pinocchio are reunited and the village is saved.

The enthusiasm and skill of the cast make this a memorable production; the masks are excellent, very reminiscent of Trestle Theatre. Claire Hughes is excellent as Pinocchio and the gamin Margarita, Tim Cooper is Gepetto, the camp Landlord, Freudian Spirit Doctor and scheming Puppet Master.

Natalie Coverly plays her five parts with great enthusiasm and skill including the sexy feline vamp Susan; Douglas Rutter plays another 5 parts including the vulpine Mr Fox. The puppets include Spitting Image Michael Foot and David Owen look-alikes. Music is played by Steve Potter.

The director is Ashley Dean; writer, designer, mask and puppet maker, Russell Dean; composer Mark Dean and excellent costumes by Carol Dean.

Maybe a little long, the first act could be shorter, this is well worth seeing.

Reviewer: Denis W McGeary