Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Iris Theatre's Pinocchio
Ginger Hibiscus | Iris Theatre's Pinocchio
Ginger Hibiscus | Iris Theatre's Pinocchio
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06 Aug REVIEW: Iris Theatre’s Pinocchio

Pinocchio 02We all know the story of Pinocchio; it’s a tale so culturally engrained that any five-year-old could tell you “it’s the one about the puppet boy with a nose that grows when he tells lies,” and most would recall that he was made by a puppet-maker named Gepetto. But how well do you really know Pinocchio? Do you recall, for example, that Gepetto had another son who died from plague, before Pinocchio was ever created? And have you heard of the bit where Pinocchio ends up hanging from a tree as two unsavoury characters try to rob him?

Suffice to say that the Italy in which Carlo Collodi’s original Pinocchio lived was a dark and threatening place, a far cry from all the wishing upon a star and wanting to be a real boy of Disney. Even before Collodi’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio was published, the puppet’s escapades (and demise) were serialised as a kind of moral warning against unchristianly behaviour, not dissimilar to Dickensian literature, sinister and uncompromising and with a brutality probably not palatable for modern parents to share with their youngest.

Pinocchio 03So don’t worry, Iris Theatre haven’t completely lost the plot and gone all the way back to source, but they have revisited Collodi’s writing and drawn fresh inspiration, with precise little touches freckling the face of the production, from using the more Italian-sounding “Pi-knock-chio” rather than Disneyism “Pi-know-chio,” all the way through to including good-humoured run-ins with the carabinieri. In creating a show that harks back to Pinocchio’s darker roots without losing sight of the fact that it’s a production predominantly for children, Iris, and in particular writer Daniel Winder have done a remarkable job of putting their own spin on a timeless classic, bringing it to life with a tangible charm and affection.

Promenading around The Actors’ Church, Covent Garden, an interesting theatrical venue (keep an eye out for the graves of Charlie Chaplin and Noël Coward to name just a couple) is made magical by a series of sophisticated sets, storytime seating and more fairy lights than Trafalgar Square at Christmas. In keeping with the design, exquisite puppets are controlled by relentlessly energetic performers whose commitment and Pinocchio 01enthusiasm are not only plentiful but infectious, the result being like a fantastical story time, with more than a little touch of midsummer panto.

It’s easy to harp on about intricate puppets and engaging storytelling, but the proof of whether it works is really in the reception – and any show that keeps an audience full of kids entranced for nearly two and a half hours can certainly be considered “well received.” Quality children’s entertainment with a stylish charm and a dark edge, Iris Theatre’s Pinocchio is definitely one for the summer holiday list.

For tickets and information:
Venue: The Actors’ Church, Covent Garden. Also known as St Paul’s Church.
Dates: 29th July – 29th August 2015
Images: Hannah Barton

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here