The creative team of this year’s pantomime offering at Above The Stag certainly know how to cater for their audience. With an innuendo at every other line and characters as camp as Christmas, this stellar cast perform a marvellous adaptation of this classic tale about a wooden boy… with a couple of naughty twists along the way.
Outside of Rome, in a small, empty town called Placenta, our pantomime Dame Geppetta, played with great class by Matthew Baldwin, lives with her lesbian daughter Cornetta (Christy Bellis). After being granted a wish upon a star by fairy Fatima (Dami Olukoya), her little wooden puppet Pinocchio springs to life. With dreams of visiting the funfair in the big city, not much can get in his way, apart from our foxy pantomime Villain Figaro (Christopher Lane). A few plot twists and turns give this adult panto a couple of X-rated surprises, namely that it’s no longer Pinocchio’s nose that grows a few inches on every lie but rather something… slightly further south.
A nice bit of cheesy song and dance opens the show, and whilst I’m perhaps in favour of slightly sprightlier pantomime numbers, there’s a fine selection of songs throughout… though a bit more music and a little less dialogue might be welcome. There’s plenty of dirt and rhyme, most suitable for the genre, though the plot could be tightened a little to get to the evening’s climax a little quicker.
The set and costume design are absolutely fabulous. David Shields’s set seems to change in a flash between what feels like nearly every scene; props to the stage management team for such efficient work on this. Shields designs gorgeously crafted wooden set pieces for Geppetta’s workshop, a lavish red boudoir for our panto villain, and even the inside of the whale’s mouth for the climactic swallow. There’s a great level of detail throughout: mirror shards which decorate the entrance to the funfair’s mirror room, and a cheeky peach and aubergine making an appearance as well. Similarly, Jackie Orton’s costumes provide a spectacular splash of colour and flair, from Geppetta’s tea-towel inspired checked dress to Fairy Fatima’s mesmerising wings, which sprout like a peacock’s feathers.
Slapstick comes a plenty: Briony Rawle’s Chianti, a housecat-cum-sidekick making an entrance through the cat-flap is a highlight moment of physical comedy, totally exploiting the meta-nature of panto in all the best possible ways, which the show does throughout. Slaps and knaps are supported well by Nico Menghini’s sharp sound design.
Jared Thompson in the starring role is a delicate delight, often floating across the stage, delivering a very enjoyable song, of which ‘got no strings to hold me up so hold me down and wreck me’ seems a pretty efficient summary of the general tone of the evening. Bellis as Cornetta gives total commitment to the role and builds a brilliant rapport with the audience.
And a seductive tango between Geppetta and boatman Pedro (Shane Barragan) shows off Carole Todd’s splendid choreography with great humour.
A wonderful evening of light-hearted entertainment makes a fantastic treat for the start of the festival season, pulled together with a fine eye for spectacle by the venue’s artistic director Andrew Beckett.
Review by Joseph Winer
Geppetta, a lonely puppet maker, crafts herself a young man out of wood. But when a magic spell brings Pinocchio to life she gets more than she bargained for.
So begins a great adventure on land and at sea, about a gay young man with a peculiar affliction: whenever he tells a lie, something very embarrassing happens.
Bringing a touch of Italian summer to London’s winter, Pinocchio: No Strings Attached is a glorious concoction of rude and irreverent comedy, songs, slapstick, spectacle and sweet-throwing from Above The Stag’s award-winning team, and a tale that reminds you: if you can’t find love, you can at least get wood.
Pinocchio: No Strings Attached
by Jon Bradfield & Martin Hooper with songs by Jon Bradfield
Directed by Andrew Beckett
Choreography by Carole Todd
Designed by David Shields
Musical direction by Aaron Clingham
Lighting design by Jamie Platt
Sound design by Nico Menghini
Casting by Harry Blumenau
November 2019 – January 2020