Tag Archives: Sebastian Porter

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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Crisis What Crisis

Crisis? What Crisis?

★★★★★

COLAB Factory

Crisis What Crisis

Crisis? What Crisis?

COLAB Factory

Reviewed – 12th November 2019

★★★★★

 

“the triumphant cheer that resounded through the room afterwards was entirely genuine and strangers were even hugging each other afterwards”

 

What did you get up to tonight, Seb? Well, I increased NHS spending by ten percent, disarmed the UK’s nuclear deterrent systems and sold the Falklands to Argentina. Not your average evening then, and that’s exactly what to expect from Parabolic Theatre’s immersive experience ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’

The word ‘immersive’ has never been more appropriate. You don’t watch this play, you become this play. A word of warning for those who prefer to take a back seat and observe – this probably isn’t for you. The same goes for anyone uninterested in politics. Because for one night, you become a government minister transported back to Labour HQ in 1979 Britain, hours before a vote of no confidence in PM John McDonnell is about to take place.

To avoid Thatcher’s vote of no confidence getting through (which would then spur a General Election), you as a minister must actively involve yourself and make tough decisions in an area of expertise – be it economics, politics or dealing with civil unrest, the outcomes of which will entirely affect what happens next. Everything you experience is in real time and there is a pressing sense of urgency throughout – as soon as one problem is solved another arises in its place.

The only way to experience Crisis? What Crisis? properly is to completely throw yourself into it, otherwise it’s very easy to find yourself lost and feeling a little awkward. If you commit to it and play the game, it’s wonderfully rewarding. Some prior political knowledge is preferable to fully get to grips with what exactly you’re dealing with, however even without it there are ways to involve yourself, and the actors do a stellar job of explaining how to play the game without ever breaking the fourth wall. I was on the economics team and immensely enjoyed choosing which government policies to implement, despite by no means being politically-minded. Others may find themselves negotiating with union leaders, consulting the treasury to see what can be spent or even appearing on national television. That last one is no joke. Towards the end of the play, a live debate is filmed and televised in a separate room where an actor will grill audience ‘ministers’ about their policies, and the ministers must defend them. It’s a level of ambitious immersion I’ve never seen before, and the fact that it works is nothing short of astounding.

What makes the ambitiousness work is the sheer amount of detail and research of the period Parabolic Theatre have undertaken in crafting Crisis? What Crisis? The room, which is essentially an office space, has been transformed with a meticulously attentive eye – every single inch is period correct. On top of this, the cast are exceptional in their roles – the performances are incredibly convincing and the actors definitely know their late 70s politics. Never losing control, they respond to every new development and every offer from a non-actor minister like real Labour ministers would. The level of skill demonstrated in their improvisation is mind-boggling – let’s not forget that this show is completely different each night, which is perhaps the most impressive thing about it as the way Parabolic have managed to weave together such a rich, complex network of events is almost unfathomable.

Maybe that’s why Crisis? What Crisis? is such an intoxicating experience. Everything about the show is so visceral – the atmosphere, the acting, the attention to detail, the fact it happens in real time – that after we all gathered around the radio to hear the results of the vote, the triumphant cheer that resounded through the room afterwards was entirely genuine and strangers were even hugging each other afterwards. As far as politics goes, this is as close as most of the audience will get to actually running the country. And as far as immersive theatre goes, Crisis? What Crisis? is a landslide victory.

 

Reviewed by Sebastian Porter

Photography by Owen Kingston

 


Crisis? What Crisis?

COLAB Factory until 8th December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Hidden Figures: WW2 | ★★★★★ | March 2018
For King & Country | ★★★★ | April 2018
Illicit Secrets: Bletchley | ★★★★ | August 2018
The Swell Mob | ★★★ | May 2019

 

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