Most popularly associated with Disney’s 1940 film, Pinocchio actually started life in 1883 in Italy as The Adventures of Pinocchio and was written in serial form. It is the author Carlo Collodi’s only written work to be translated into the English language and serves to be the country’s most famous fairy tale. Early versions were perhaps much darker than we recognise with the cheeky, little wooden liar coming to a particularly gruesome end, though revisions were made and the tone made much lighter. Oh if only Walt had gone down the murderous road.
The Adventures of Pinocchio serves as a warning to children not to lie but completely highlights their naivety, rather than early onset sociopathy. Bronagh Lagan’s production is sweet and completely catered towards a young audience with a wonderful and versatile cast. Unsurprisingly puppetry is used, though sporadically and with much humour, especially during one scene in the circus. Nik Corrall’s set is basic and light, but has great impact. Props such as a giant sheet to propose the sea and the whale swallowing scene is well done and visually stimulating. Corrall’s costumes are fantastic for such a small production with the Fox and Cat creating probably the most attention. Pinoochio’s ‘growing nose’ and subsequent ‘shaving off’ to reduce it back to size is genius.
Musically, it is fun in the moment, but for the most part instantly forgettable. One exception and highlight is ‘Terra Di Ragazzi’ along with its little jig, which actually sticks in your head. For such a small show though, the music is impressively written.
Considering they’re both grown men, Martin Neely’s Geppetto and Christian James’s Pinocchio have done a smashing job in convincing us they’re father and son, with James doing an even more impressive move in showing he can play a child. The entire cast are fantastic with Neely switching into various characters with ease and James holding his own, though his singing voice sometimes suffers during the more gruelling scenes. Rachael Louise Miller impresses most with her stunning voice, especially in the finale and James Charlton, though not a stand-out, plays his roles well. Ceris Hine is a personal favourite and I’m sure many will agree. The humour she evokes is easy and natural and most definitely has the most work in switching between the Cat and Puppet Master; both quite large roles.
There’s plenty to pour delirious joy into the hearts of children in Greenwich Theatre’s latest infant focused show but for an adult who has no children with them, having the very young ones wandering around and climbing on to the stage is perhaps just a little bit too much of a disturbance. Whilst Pinocchio is a great show and very suitable for families, I would think seriously before going unless you’ve a high tolerance, and therefore are some sort of superhuman, monster freak.
The Adventures of Pinocchio is playing at the Greenwich Theatre until August 23. For more information and tickets, see the Greenwich Theatre website. Photo by Claire Bilyard