|Pinnochio (image credit: Little Angel Theatre).|
However, this journey will take Pinocchio far from the school gates, into a strange world in which several of the most surreal creatures from the original novel are brought to life. Collodi’s blue fairy is eerie and ethereal. Part flower, part woman, the puppet is slightly redolent of a cartoon extra-terrestrial. She floats to Pinocchio’s aid but her presence is initially chilling. However, it is the puppet incarnations of real-life animals which are most entertaining. A goat bleats loudly, waggling its fleece. During the production I watched, it reared its nose energetically in the face of a little girl in the front row who giggled uncontrollably. Two villains of the narrative, a well-to-do but conniving fox and his accomplice, Madam Cat, likewise amused the adults in the audience with some entertaining asides as they desperately tried to outwit Pinocchio. However, while such characters are arguably good fun, the play seems to rush a little through the events in Collodi’s book, meaning that some scenes lack context and we don’t completely follow the action. Pinocchio’s nose grows briefly in one scene as he tells a lie, but this occurrence is only integrated into the wider play with regard to other undesired mutations, such as a scene in which the puppet is unwittingly transformed into a donkey.
Peter O’Rourke’s production fuses roughly-hewn cardboard masks and wooden puppetry to create a dreamlike landscape rooted in the earthy materials of wood, wool, paper and string. Inventive light projections emphasise this in the second act, when projected grains of wood pass across a makeshift linen screen to form hills, paths and finally rippling water. This forms the backdrop to Pinocchio’s race to find Geppetto and save him from the belly of the blue fish. Against the action, a pleasing and rather resourceful soundtrack by Pete Flood incorporates unusual percussion such as the clanging of cowbells. While the narrative is at times patchily stitched together, Pinocchio as a character is engaging, and was certainly expertly puppeteered. As testimony to this, the children in the audience remained fidget-free and happily attentive throughout.
Pinocchio is playing at the Little Angel Theatre until 27 January 2013. For more information and tickets please see the Little Angel Theatre website.