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Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!


Above the Stag

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Above The Stag

Reviewed – 22nd November 2019



“arguably the least subtle show to ever grace the stage, yet it is so fantastically brazen about it that you can’t help but be charmed by it”


Right, I’ll just come straight out and say it. This show has ruined Pinocchio for me. There. Happy, guys? My childhood has been well and truly shattered.

Why? Because Jon Bradfield & Martin Hooper’s Pinocchio: No Strings Attached! is not a screen-to-stage magical Disney story for the family. Instead it is a filthy, raunchy, hilarious and shockingly rambunctious romp which takes the phrase ‘adult pantomime’ to dizzying new heights. How? Well, let me just say that when Pinocchio lies in this show, it isn’t his nose that grows bigger… suffice to say I’ve never wished someone to be truthful more.

Just about every sex joke ever conceived (no pun intended) is crammed into this panto, which may as well have been called ‘Carry on Puppeteering’ as far as innuendo is concerned. It is arguably the least subtle show to ever grace the stage, yet it is so fantastically brazen about it that you can’t help but be charmed by it. Make no mistake, this is not a play for prudes – the humour is so blue it’s setting up fake fact-checking websites as we speak.

The basic story is more or less intact, but switched up for a more modern retelling aimed at the LGBTQ+ community and heavily Frankensteined to make it infinitely ruder and incredibly camp. It’s certainly great fun, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Pinocchio: No Strings Attached is a play without heart – love and acceptance are very much the order of the day. Alongside Pinocchio (Jared Thompson) embarking on a journey to become a real boy, his main struggle here is coming out and accepting his own sexuality as he falls for Joe (Oli Dickson). However, the story is not strictly his and each character has their own love battle, bar the villainous Figaro (Christopher Lane), who as the town’s corrupt, bigoted mayor seeks to ruin things for everyone.

Despite all the low-brow ‘take me through the back passage’ jokes, the play is quite often refreshingly progressive in opening conversations about xenophobia, homophobia and people of colour struggling to find their identity in the LGBTQ+ world. There are also plenty of clever topical references thrown in at the delight of the audience, some of which are so current I can only assume they are written in the moment they appear in the news.

It is always important for a panto to be visually stimulating, and David Shields’ set design does not disappoint – it’s colourful and exciting without cluttering the stage; Jackie Orton’s costumes are similarly pleasing to the eye. The score (Jon Bradfield), whilst not the most innovative musically, does a great job of furthering the characters’ love stories in a succinct and enjoyable way, and the lyrics are an absolute riot.

The stand out performance is without a doubt Matthew Baldwin, in drag as Geppetta. He commands the stage with utter confidence and has the whole audience in his palm for the play’s entirety. His performance is relaxed, almost lackadaisical yet playful, and the timing of his rapier-sharp wit is the mark of a true virtuoso. It isn’t just Baldwin though, the whole cast are to be praised for the show’s slickness. The characters are memorable for the most part, the energy is never at risk of dropping and Andrew Beckett’s attentive direction has created a show that feels completely precise and polished.

If this year you fancy a deliciously crude panto that sticks to the winning formula and doesn’t pretend to be anything different, then Pinocchio: No Strings Attached is the one to see. Just don’t bring your kids.


Reviewed by Sebastian Porter

Photography by PGB Studios


Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Above The Stag until 11th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019
Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story  | ★★★★ | May 2019
Happily Ever Poofter | ★★★★ | July 2019
Velvet | ★★★ | October 2019


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Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Leicester Square Theatre

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 21st June 2019



“Whilst it didn’t have my sides splitting, it’s still a fun way to spend an evening”


The idea is this: you take five classically trained actors, spend weeks and weeks rehearsing a Shakespeare play, then, come showtime, for every performance one cast member gets ten out of ten drunk- or at least a solid seven and a half- and hilarity ensues.

Our drunk for the evening is David Ellis, playing Hamlet, and I can confirm he was definitely drunk – a point of contention in previous reviews. The script often seems to get in the way of his good time and he gets in to a rhythm of reciting his very wordy monologues double-time so he can get to the fun bit: licking his co-actors and throwing stuff at the audience.

The compere, Beth-Louise Priestley, spends much of the show ushering Ellis on and off stage, ensuring he’s polite to the rest of the cast and doesn’t throw anything too heavy at the audience (he does accidentally lob a book but I’ve been assured no audience members were hurt during this production). She is clearly genuinely enthused but I suppose owing to the fact that Sh!t-Faced has been running as long as it has, some of her lines feel a little over-rehearsed and sometimes she struggles to inject the necessary spontaneity in to her delivery.

Magnificent Bastard Productions has been running Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare now for a good few years. I imagine they kept coming up against the fact that the success or failure of the night is very much dependent on whether the drunk is a funny drunk. Otherwise you’ve got an inexplicably abridged Shakespeare play with one person who can’t remember their lines and just wants to take a nap. Not super fun. So, their solution is to make the whole script a bit silly; give the sober actors a chance to crack a joke or two. Unfortunately, this means there’s much less room for genuine improv and you can’t tell if the drunkard is cracking their own joke or reciting the script. You would think that the point of it being Shakespeare is that it’s traditionally very serious and stuffy, and adding a drunk person gives a good dose of giddy unpredictability. But if the script is already farcical, it comes off a bit like a touring school production – a way for the kids to get excited about an old play.

It feels a little formulaic but I suppose that’s to be expected when what started as a raucous fringe production moves to a West End theatre. That said, the cast still seem to be having a great time and they are obviously genuinely fond of each other which makes all the difference with improv.

Whilst it didn’t have my sides splitting, it’s still a fun way to spend an evening. Make sure you’ve got a drink in hand, this is not ideal for a sober night out.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Rah Petherbridge


Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Leicester Square Theatre until 14th September


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder, She Didn’t Write | ★★★ | February 2018
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2018
Murder She Didn’t Write | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sh!t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! | ★★★ | September 2018
Stick Man | ★★★½ | October 2018
Sh!t-Faced Showtime: Oliver With A Twist | ★★ | March 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | April 2019


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