It’s rare to find a tale where the main character is truly unlikeable. While Peter Pan may be an arrogant, stubborn boy Pinocchio is disrespectful, cocky and selfish. Disney can be forgiven perhaps for making him more attractive as a character, but – as usual – the truth is far more interesting.
Children in the audience might be shocked at the darkness of Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, but the magic and the message remain clear. In this, Iris Theatre are to be commended.
What makes me look forward to their productions so much is that you are completely immersed in their imagination, caught up in their creativity and mystified by their magic.
The cast of seven convince you that there are in fact hundreds of actors running around as each actor switches character so quickly and effortlessly that the audience is clear that they are a completely different person… or creature!
Memorable is Mrs Snail (Annabel King) – a far cry from Mistress Cherry – both in small puppet form and larger than life creature, while Emma Darlow is wonderful as Mrs Cat, perfectly paired with Jonathan Mulquin as Mr Fox (a strong contrast to his Gepetto).
The school scene also lets the cast have fun with West Country accents as they joke around and interact with the children (and adults) who are also in the classroom.
Iris Theatre regulars Laura Wickham (the Blue Fairy and Abrianna) and Nick Howard-Brown (Green Cricket and School Master) are as fantastic as ever, both so engaging; their mischief and humour shine through in one character, yet they also manage to be heartwarming in another.
Staged in promenade around St Paul’s church, the scenery is perhaps the best I’ve seen from Iris, particularly the Land of Fun and the sea storm which was incredible effective. Sadly, the audience in this performance moved slower than Mrs Snail which was a shame as it affected the flow of the piece.
However, walking through the mouth of the whale into a grotto bathed in blue-green light was definitely a highlight and while Pinocchio (Nick Pack) does not deserve to become a real boy, you’re still moved when he does.
It was magical, musical and heartwarming – a fantastical summer show.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Hannah Barton
Pinocchio is playing at the St Paul’s Church until 28 August 2015. Click here for tickets