Part of a double-bill repertory season of children’s theatre at the Greenwich Theatre in London this summer, Pinocchio is a timeless choice for young people returning to the audience after more than a year without live performance.
A young ensemble attack the sometimes difficult script with verve and gusto, creating cartoonish characters that help carry the meandering plot, tightly directed by James Haddrell. Cassandra Hercules plays a petulant Pinocchio, while Antony Spargo has great comic timing as Gepetto, particularly in the scene where he has to describe to Mr Cherry (David Haller, who also plays live music throughout the show) that the puppet he has created for him is no more. Reice Weathers as Fellino (the cat) and Adam Karim as Volpino (the fox) make an energetic double act. While Alice De-Warrenne plays Angelica with fairytale innocence. Serin Ibrahim manipulates a hand and stick puppet for the philosophising cricket Grillo.
There have been more recent adaptations than this 1996 version that Anthony Clark first wrote for the Birmingham rep, but while the script is a little wordy, it is certainly worthy, pulling out the morals of Carlo Collodi’s classic tale of a little puppet trying to navigate a world of right and wrong to become a real boy. And parents will be pleased that there is time given for their little ones to dwell on what it means to lie, the importance of an education and how to say sorry.
Two particular highlights of the show for my young reviewers were the “play within a play” when Pinocchio goes to the puppet theatre to watch Beauty and the Beast played by a couple of charming old string puppets, and the “Land of Endless Fun”, where the children have skipping ropes and hoops that light up with a colourful glow.
Cleo Pettitt’s simple set, which involves an arch of rusty roller-coaster track and some delightful old theatre and circus posters, is an unobtrusive backdrop, while her fabulous, flamboyant costumes bring colour to the foreground.