PINOCCHIO – St. Paul’s Church, London.
Though imaginative sets, colourful costumes and puppetry, Iris Theatre present the classic story of Pinocchio in the ground of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Geppetto (Jonathan Mulquin)is a toymaker devastated by the death of his son. To cope with his loss he builds a mechanical boy who comes to life. We follow Pinocchio (Nick Pack) as he explores the world and gets up into all kinds of mischief and danger along the way.
As the scenes move from Geppetto’s toyshop to the schoolroom to the funfair and finally the belly of a great whale, the audience are guided around the outdoor space with the actors often moving in and around the assembled crowds. The cast of seven work tirelessly to ensure even the most restless children remain engaged. Their commitment to the work in such a challenging environment is wonderful.
Billed as a Family Fable, it aims to please both told and young, a balance which is difficult to achieve. On the whole it manages it admirably, weaving an aura of innocence that is often lost in the modern day. With music by Candida Caldicot, Writer and Director Daniel Winde creates a semi-interactive retelling of a story most of us know from our own childhoods.
As with most children’s tales, it comes with moral lessons, delivered by the Blue Fairy (Laura Wickham) and Green Cricket (Nick Howard-Brown) warning of the troubles and consequences of disobeying your parents, said with a knowing wink towards the adults in the audience. We meet Lampwick (Simon Kent), Mrs Cat (Emma Darlow) and Mistress Cherry (Annabel King) among others, all trying to help, trick or lead Pinocchio astray. Despite its playful nature, there is a darker side to this story which elevates it above being purely a children’s tale.
Pinocchio is very old fashioned in sensibility and language, I wonder how much the younger children understood of the story itself, but there is no doubt they were engaged by the presentation of it. The space was used imaginatively, not least at the climax of the tale. The sets and costumes, clever those sparse, give the sense that it is a child’s game and makes it accessible in. However, moving such a large audience around the churchyard while still maintaining the momentum of the story proves a problem, but thankfully each time the rhythm returns without too much delay.
As you would expect with any outdoor theatre, the weather will have an impact on your enjoyment of the show. So wrap up warm and bring your waterproofs, and leave your grown-up worries at the gate. It is best to watch this through child’s eyes less you spoil the atmosphere with thoughts of the adult world. In the end even the most cynical of theatre goers can’t help but be won over by this company’s unique approach to theatrical storytelling.
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By Catherine Duffy
29th July – 29th August 2015
St Paul’s Church, London WC2E 9ED