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Review of Iris Theatre’s Pinocchio at St Paul’s The Actors Church

 Cast of Iris Theatre's Pinocchio
Mr Fox (Jonathan Mulquin), Mrs Snail (Annabel King), Green Cricket (Nick Howard-Brown), Pinocchio (Nick Pack), Mr Blackbird (Simon Kent), The Blue Fairy (Laura Wickham) and Mrs Cat (Emma Darlow)

When you are 132 years old, it is pretty certain that everyone knows everything about your life isn’t it? The short answer to that is a resounding No, and if you want to know more about the puppet that wants to be a real boy then head down to St Paul’s Churchyard and see the Iris Theatre production of “Pinocchio, A Family Fable”.

The show opens with Mistress Cherry (Annabel King) telling the audience the story of the ‘little wooden boy’ when she is suddenly interrupted by a large Green Cricket (Nick Howard) who points out that the story she is telling is a bit light in facts, in fact it’s a work of fiction from start to finish. Taking the audience on the first of their trips around the churchyard, the cricket introduces us to the old toymaker Geppetto (Jonathan Mulquin) and explains the real reasons he made Pinocchio (Nick Pack). As well as the cricket, Pinocchio is watched over by the Blue Fairy (Laura Wickham) who brings the toy to life and tries to guide him through life’s trials and tribulations. Over the next 2 hours or so, we follow Pinocchio’s adventures in his quest to understand the world he was brought into and his place within it. On the way, he goes to school with the awful Lampwick (Simon Kent), runs away from home, meets the artful Mr Fox and Mrs Cat (Emma Darlow), not to mention the ringmaster, a friendly snail and a host of other characters before the audience join him on the final part of his story.

I have to be honest here, I’ve always thought that Pinocchio was one of the worst characters in the fairy tale lexicon. He is thoughtless, rude, reckless – the boy seems to have a philosophy of ‘let’s hurry and forget the consequences’ and is easily led, not to mention distracted by things around him. If one of Pinocchio’s ‘friends’ suggested getting a nipple piercing he would undoubtedly be up for it. I also believe that the whole premise of Carlo Collodi’s story – a father making a puppet as a replacement for his own son – a tainted love if ever there was one – was slightly iffy in many respects. So how did I get on with Writer/Director Daniel Winder’s version of the story? I loved every minute.

Staged as a promenade piece “Pinocchio” worked so well. The script kept both adults and children entertained and amused, and the songs by Candida Caldicott were quite infectious – especially the head/hands/knees/arms song. All of the traditional elements of the story that we know and love were present and lots of extras as well.

We went with Pinocchio to the school room, which involved a lovely piece of audience interaction, we went to the ‘land of fun’ with disastrous effects for Lampwick – no real spoilers but imagine Seabiscuit gone to seed – and we joined Pinocchio and his father in the Leviathan’s stomach.

With the exception of Pinocchio himself, the remainder of the cast play multiple roles in the show and really throw themselves into each one. This is especially true of Jonathan Mulquin who produced both a distraught – not great at the whole dad thing – Geppetto followed by the campest Mr Fox you will ever see. Nick Pack is brilliant as Pinocchio bringing the young puppet to life superbly being at times a mischievous scamp, contrite frightened boy and obnoxious brat. Nick demonstrates every facet of Pinocchio’s flawed character superbly. Costumer designer Denise Andersson has produced some stunning costumes and special credit needs to go out to Puppet Maker Alicia Britt whose puppets are really beautiful and illustrate parts of the story wonderfully.

Pinocchio’s tale of birth, disobedience and redemption is really sweet and this production brings it to life in a fantastic way. Koala Bears are often portrayed as having a wide smile on their faces – believed to have something to do with their relationship to eucalyptus leaves – and I had the same smile as I left the St Paul’s churchyard last night after spending some really quality time with the Geppetto, his son and the sheer magic of this wonderful production.
4 stars


Review by Terry Eastham

Keen to prove he is as quick and clever as any real little boy, Pinocchio leaves his Pappa far behind. On a fantastical journey, Pinocchio meets a speaking cat, a dancing fox, a sneaky snake and a child who turns into a donkey; but as he’s swallowed up whole by a ship-guzzling dogfish it looks like Pinocchio will never become a real little boy…

Carlo Collodi’s fantastical version of 19th Century Tuscany is full to the brim with travelling carnivals, talking animals, fairies and foolish puppets.

Pinoccho, by Carlo Collodi in a newly commissioned version by Dan Winder and Candida Calidcott, the same team who brought you the celebrated and award nominated Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass over the last two summers.

Emma Darlow – Mrs Cat
Nick Howard-Brown – Green Cricket
Simon Kent – Lampwick
Annabel King – Mistress Cherry
Jonathan Mulquin – Geppetto
Nick Pack – Pinocchio
Laura Wickham – Blue Fairy

Dan Winder – Director
Candida Caldicot – Composer
Amber Scarlett – Set Designer
Denise Andersson – Costume Designer & Supervisor
Alicia Britt – Puppet Maker
Benjamin Polya – Lighting Designer
Stefanie Bradbury – Movement Director
Tanja Pagnuco – Summer Producer
Matthew Schmolle – Marketing Manager
Helen Pack – Assistant Producer
Kelly Quintyne – Assistant Producer

This classic story will take over St Paul’s Church and Grounds from the 29th July – 29th August, 2015
This show is a promenade production that will take you through the grounds of St Paul’s Church. Seating is unallocated.
Matinee performances start at 2.30pm on July 30th and August 6th, 8th, 13th, 15th, 20th, 22nd, 27th and 29th.
Evening performances start at 7pm.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval.

Get along to see Annie London musical at the Piccadilly Theatre


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