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: