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Review - Pinocchio at the National Theatre

Will Longman
Will Longman

John Tiffany has a knack for transporting us to different worlds, most notably immersing us in the magical world of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Here, he pulls it off again as he brings the story of the little wooden boy to life.

The first stage show to use the 1940 Walt Disney film as its basis, we meet Pinocchio in the workshop of Geppetto, the elderly puppet-maker who always pined for a son. He carves Pinocchio (played by Joe Idris-Roberts) out of a special pine, and springs into life as an innocent child. Geppetto, for the sake of proportions is played by a giant, creepy bobble head puppet expertly maneuvered by a team of puppeteers. 

One of the highlights from this production comes in the form of its music, using the original songs from the Disney score. There may not be a show-stopping number, but it is full of catchy earworms like "I've Got No Strings" and "Give a Little Whistle". As Disney's trademark theme "When You Wish Upon a Star" opens the show, it's difficult not to be filled with gleeful nostalgia.

​Tiffany's production is full of magical moments, from a flickering flame floating around the auditorium, to Stephen Hoggett's swirling choreography reminiscent of what we saw in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and, more recently, Road at the Royal Court. As Pinocchio's nose stretches across the stage with every lie he tells, and a few other playful tricks throughout the show, the younger members of the audience provided apt gasps. The show cumulates in a truly epic, heart-stopping finale.

Dennis Kelly's book isn't quite up to scratch, some jokes misfire with both adults and children alike. The biggest laugh from the kids sat near me came from Pinocchio blowing raspberries when learning to whistle. The scene on Pleasure Island is a bit giddy and disorientating, and perhaps that's the point, but it feels maybe that's where the show could find a few minutes to pick up the pace.

Joe Idris-Roberts plays innocent child well, and can aptly sing the songs while maintaining his young boy demeanour, but as he wonders around stiff like a wooden doll, it seems a shame that there perhaps wasn't more effort put in to making him look like a puppet. Audrey Bisson lights up the stage as Jiminy Cricket, a talking cricket who takes on the role of Pinocchio's conscience. Again, she is portrayed by a tiny wooden puppet that moves in cartoon-like ways, and Brisson's voice is spot-on.

Pinocchio is at the National Theatre until 10th April 2018. 

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