Reviewed – 4th December 2018
“some brief glimmers of brilliance … but ultimately it feels, well – wooden”
Pinocchio, as Disney have proved, is ripe with material that modern audiences of children can enjoy and learn from. This new adaptation, written by Mary Swan and directed by Kaveh Rahnama, unfortunately features hackneyed lessons and little that entertains in a disappointingly slow and low-energy affair.
The story follows the original fairly closely as we see Pinocchio (Floria Da Silva) as a puppet come to life, eager to please his creator Gepetto (Umar Butt), but also easily misled by the conniving Cat (Ed Stephen) and Fox (Rosie Rowlands). However, this adaptation sees a few beloved aspects ignored, such as Pinocchio’s nose growing when he lies, which features only once and very briefly. As a result, the lessons and morals about responsibility and honesty woven into the fabric of the original story feel like they’ve unnecessarily been ripped out. In their place, this script tries to explore themes of parenthood and specifically being a single parent, but the differing intent of the source material makes the moments that focus on these concepts feel inorganic and cumbersome.
Unfortunately, the clunkiness also bleeds through into the telling of the story. Rahnama has tried to incorporate acrobatics and circus elements into the performance, but they fail to come across as story – or character-driven, and instead as an attempt to gloss over the cracks in the plot with gimmicks. This happens too with set and props, as ideas are introduced and then discarded almost instantly; the use of a huge sheet as the ocean, for example, could have made for a visually stimulating sequence but instead is just scenery to an otherwise static and uninspired moment.
The most crucial litmus test of a children’s show, however, is of course the children’s reaction, and unfortunately they seemed restless and uninterested. Many of the jokes and ‘showstopping’ acrobatic moments were met with silence, and the uncomfortable pauses where the actors were expecting laughter or applause dampened the energy greatly, and brought the momentum of the show to a crawl. Pinocchio features some brief glimmers of brilliance, especially in moments in the last section of the show involving shadow puppets and bubbles, and certain performances such as Rowlands’ as Fox desperately try to inject life into the show, but ultimately it feels, well – wooden.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
Photography by Liam Croucher
Albany Theatre until 29th December
Other shows reviewed by Tom Francis:
Dead & Breathing
Reviewed – 21st February 2018
“has a few twists and turns that lay open the divides between rich and poor, happiness and sadness, and belonging and rejection”
I just realised that I’ve only ever seen children’s shows at the Albany Theatre. It has always been brilliant but not exactly a grown-up experience. Walking into this theatre bereft of noisy, excited kids, seemed a little strange at first, but then I got my first view of the set …
The ‘apartment’ in front of me was beautifully put together (by Sarah Booth) with a clever selection of furniture which kept the set simple but exuding luxury at the same time. It was a sumptuous setting for the spoilt, ill and aging Carolyn to wait impatiently to die whilst being nursed by her newest in a long line of verbally abused carers, Veronika.
Jaded and cranky Carolyn is used to getting her own way and desperate for a quick demise. She will try every way she can to convince those sent to help her of her right to choose her own exit time and place. The determined and devoutly Christian Veronika wants to make her client’s last months, as peaceful and comfortable as possible, she’s certain that Carolyn’s passing is the decision of a higher being than themselves.
Equally resolute in their views, they tolerate each other with a grudging respect until a proposition is posed and a dilemma appears. What exactly will it take for Carolyn to convince Veronika to assist her in a suicide?
Two brave performances from Lizan Mitchell as Carolyn and Kim Tatum as her carer make this very sharp and funny script from Chisa Hutchinson come alive. The catty remarks, the sarcastic wit, and their mutual love of colourful language keep you wondering whether Carolyn’s last wish will ever be fulfilled.
Lizan Mitchell gives an easy performance with a confidence which Kim Tatum doesn’t quite match. Yet as the tale of these two very different lives unfolds, revealing a gulf in humanity and acceptance, the performance style is absorbed into the plot, and doesn’t distract from the story.
The play even manages to claw back momentum after an extended silent scene a little over half way through, thanks to the performances of these two women glaring at each other across the stage, and a revelation that may change everything.
Thought provoking in so many more ways than expected, Dead & Breathing has a few twists and turns that lay open the divides between rich and poor, happiness and sadness, and belonging and rejection.
A very enjoyable evening that generated a buzz in the foyer as the audience departed. I look forward to more from this playwright.
Reviewed by Joanna Hinson
Photography by Alex Beckett
Dead & Breathing
Albany Theatre until 3rd March