Pinocchio Reviews (Polka 2008)
- Until Sat Feb 7
- Critics' Choice
- Family friendly
- Polka Theatre, 240 The Broadway, London, SW19 1SB
© Robert Workman
Posted: Fri Dec 12 2008
- You can rely on eternal maverick Michael Rosen to keep the Disneyfied Pinocchio at arm’s length. His adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s puppet boy story revels in the nineteenth centuryoriginal’s more macabre details,but presents them with characteristically comic brio. The entire production is imbued with off-the-wall humour – close harmony singing and bouncy banjo and accordion music keep it festive – so that anything potentially disturbing is softened for a young audience. There’s even ‘it’s
behind you!’ potential, in accordance with the season.
The Pinocchio story is framed within the chaos of an unready band of travelling players who intend to put on their show but have mislaid the marionette star. Reluctantly they agree to use their endearing duffer of a general dogsbody Dave (Ian Street, boyishly cute in his overalls) as Pinocchio. This
improvisational device works well for all concerned; the rest of the cast delight in pulling rank over their newly promoted member, and their slightly scolding attitude draws out Pinocchio’s naive naughtiness. It also helps the audience take a step back from the more violent episodes – when the puppet sets its feet on fire, is persecuted by grubby chancers Cat and Fox and is eventually hung from a tree. Dave reassures us that no noose will go round his flesh and-blood neck, and quickly fashions a Pinocchio substitute from a clothes hanger and an old coat. The impromptu flavour of the production is further underlined by Laura McEwen’s set, which looks like a jumbled theatre-prop store but blossoms nicely into the sinister Land of the Toys and the Field of Fancy, both places where the wilful Pinocchio should not go, but does, of course.
Underpinning the sweet disorder is a wittily choreographed musical show, with a laugh-out loud script and delightful songs by Ben Glasstone; a gleeful gift for children, in artfully dishevelled wrapping.