BWW Review: PINOCCHIO, Citizens Theatre
Citizens Theatre Christmas shows have built a reputation for a certain darkness, different to your standard pantomime, but still filled with Christmas spirit. Pinocchio is no different.
The ensemble cast welcomes the audience with a singalong of "Dario the Donkey" before the story begins. It's a cheery opening that later develops sinister consequences, setting the tone immediately for those familiar with the tale.
Music continues throughout, played and sung by the cast, giving an inclusive, folky feel to the show. Nikola Kodjabashia's entire sound world adds something special and inviting. A particular audience favourite is the bell that signals the door to Geppetto's shop, accompanied each time it opens by a sprinkle of snow from a bucket. We are invited into the world of making theatre as well as enjoying the magic, and it is a well-struck balance throughout thanks to Citizens Theatre Artistic Director Dominic Hill.
The story is familiar, though the script does seem to rely on at least some prior knowledge of the tale to follow easily along, particularly in the second act. Lonely toymaker Geppetto carves one final puppet, Pinocchio, who sheds his strings and is determined to prove himself a real boy, unwittingly ending up in the hands of the evil Florenzina.
Cat and Fox mislead Pinocchio for personal gain, Cricket tries to guide him, but Pinocchio has to learn right and wrong for himself. Florenzina's dastardly plan to staff the mines with naughty children (or, donkeys) fails when Cat and Fox turn on her. More could have been done to account for their sudden change of heart and loss of memory, but it is still an excellent pantomimic downfall, and Irene Allan brings an energy and evil to the role from her first moment on stage.
The true stars of the show are the puppets, designed by Rachael Canning. A beautiful, emotive, wooden Pinocchio is front and centre, but the delicate Cricket, overblown Florenzina head and majestic whale are equally incredible. Citizens Theatre actor intern Liam King excels both in the puppetry and performance of Pinocchio, and it's clear he has a strong career on stage ahead of him. The ensemble, made up of RCS students, also shine, and it's great to see a theatre supporting so many young actors at the start of their career.
Pinocchio will appeal to the young and old and anyone in between. It cements the Citizens as the place to go for an alternative to typical pantomime and an alternative to reality, but also for a true theatre-makers' show with a love for craft and performance at its core.
Picture Credit: Tim Morozzo