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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

My Thoughts on Pinocchio at The National Theatre

On Friday evening, I had the absolute pleasure of accompanying my good friend (and fellow Disney devotee) to the National Theatre's production of Pinocchio.

Photo Credit: National Theatre
The original 1883 tale of The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, is a very dark and sometimes sinister narrative. Disney pay homage to this in their 1940s adaptation of the story, but cleverly intertwine the more frightening scenes with magical moments for family enjoyment in the way that only Disney entertainment can. I was interested in which vibe the National's production would opt for in their interpretation...

Within the first few moments, as the overture played the infamous When You Wish Upon A Star, (my favourite Disney song!) it was clear to me that the National were basing their version of the story on the Disney movie...

Plus, I did my research before going and I had a programme so I kind of knew this would be the case already!

The whimsical nature of I've Got No Strings and Little Wooden Head featuring within this production, made for a much more nostalgic and enjoyable evening - I was really pleased that the classic Disney music was featured, setting the tone for the overall performance. I've Got No Strings in particular was a real highlight for me as I watched row upon row of human-sized marionettes perform dance routines from all around Europe... 

Just like the animated classic. "Oooh la la!"

Photo Credit: National Theatre
The production was directed by the brilliant John Tiffany (of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child fame) and together, with a few key members of his Cursed Child entourage, successfully created a spectacular production delivering mind-blowing stage craft including the entrance of Monstro the gigantic whale, larger than life puppetry and that infamous growing nose...

True magic on stage!

The stand out performance for me was definitely Audrey Brisson in the role of Jiminy Cricket.

Photo Credit: National Theatre

I really loved that this character had been changed from male to female, giving Jiminy an almost 'motherly-like' quality and enhancing the relationship between herself and Pinocchio in doing so. The change in gender also made me realise that Disney's 1940s Pinocchio would almost certainly fail the cinematic Bechdel Test, so female Jiminy was a very welcome addition for this reason also!

Audrey Brisson's neurotic characterisation of Jiminy lead to many laughs throughout the audience and was an excellent demonstration of truly brilliant puppetry. I completely forgot that Brisson was present part way through the show! I was totally invested in Jiminy as a fully realised character and this was, I feel, a real testament to both Audrey Brisson and James Charlton, Jiminy's puppeteer. Great job!

(Plus, puppetry in a show about a little wooden puppet... how could you not totally fall in love with that concept!)

The show states that it is appropriate for 'brave 8 year olds' but I personally think that younger children would also fall in love with it; there weren't that many frightening moments and the drinking, smoking and violence featured are no more severe than what is present in the 1940s Disney version.

Overall, I had a wonderful time and would definitely recommend buying a ticket if you can! I would certainly love to go back and enjoy it all over again.


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