Pinocchio is the well-known and beloved tale, of a magical wooden marionette that must learn the importance of truth before he can become a real boy. The original story, written by Carlo Collodi over a hundred years ago, has been adapted for the stage and screen many times and continues to engage audiences. Windmill Theatre and State Theatre Company of South Australia have teamed up to bring Adelaide audiences a new, modern take on the story, penned by Julianne O’Brien.
Pinocchio (Nathan OKeefe) is bored with normal life and runs away from the home of his creator and father, Geppetto (Alirio Zavarce), to find fun elsewhere. He has various adventures with a cat, Kitty Poo (Jude Henshall), and Fox (Derik Lynch) but in the end must decide what is important in life. Along the way villain Strombolli (Geoff Revell), tries to distract and entrap Pinocchio, having always desired the puppet for his own, the Blue Girl (Danielle Catanzariti) offers Pinocchio love and support, and the ever present Cricket steers him down the right path. It’s a haphazard plotline and those unfamiliar with the story may find segments of it, particularly those involving the Blue Girl, confusing.
This is a musical and this side of the production adds movement and vitality to the show. There were highs and lows but for the most part the songs were catchy, modern and entertaining. Under the guidance of composer and musical director Jethro Woodward, the three piece band (including also Shireen Khemlani and Paul White), with occasional help from various members of the cast on extra instruments, managed to create a full and pleasing sound.
In the title role, O’Keefe was his usual fountain of energy, springing from one section of the set to another. He used his gangly frame to wonderful comedic effect and injected a lovely blend of childish irreverence and enthusiasm into the wooden boy. His singing was also top-notch. He was everything you could want in a Pinocchio. Revell was equally strong as Stromboli, the baddy of the piece, who will no doubt instil fear in many young audience members. However, there is also pathos to the character and, although he may be scary at times, we saw the sadness behind his actions; Revell managed to convey this motivation well.
It is pleasing that in a play about a puppet, there is actual puppetry used, with the Cricket flying in and out on the hand of Sam Routledge. He is a talented puppeteer and let the role inhabit his whole body. He created a delightful character that was both wise and very cheeky. The rest of the cast gave variable performances; at times strong, at others lacking. While the big group numbers were generally aurally pleasing, some of the vocals were not quite on-par in the solos. At times energy felt lacking, characters were unengaging, and Henshall’s accent was distractingly inconsistent.
It is the technical aspects of the show that really shine. The set (Jonathon Oxlade) is a large, interesting, multi-levelled wooden structure, which adapts to become various parts of a city, a funfair, a beach and even a giant shark. This is accomplished through the use of video projection (Chris More) onto its surface, to create and change settings in the blink of an eye. The double revolve on which this structure sits also aids in the smooth transition of the characters from scene to scene; they seem to magically enter and exit as the stage moves. Lighting, by Geoff Cobham, contributed well to the atmosphere of the various settings, particularly the creepy fairground. Director and creator Rosemary Myers has used the space well to convey the journey of Pinocchio and provide enough action to keep young minds engaged.
This is a different offering to the usual STC fare and on one level it’s nice to see them branching out and connecting with other segments of the community while also providing their audiences with a taste of something new. It’s a show that will engage younger audiences, particularly families, and is a great opportunity to get children seeing theatre (especially in the school holidays). Whether it will be a hit with the older crowds though is questionable. While still enjoyable from an adult perspective, it doesn’t quite tick all the boxes you might hope.
Kryztoff Rating: 3.5K