A lifeless block of wood turns into a living being – A talking cricket acts as a conscious – A wishing star doubles as a beautiful fairy – And a monstrous whale swallows half of the company. This could only be a Disney story. But it’s not your traditional fairy tale that often occupies the family-centred company’s creations. There’s no princess that needs saving from a fire breathing monster; no, this story is instead based on a puppet who longs to be a real boy – whose nose grows longer each time a new lie is told.
Based on the classic novel written in the early 1880’s by Carlo Lorenzini, (originally titled ‘Collodi’), Pinocchio is the National Theatre’s 2017 Christmas family show. There’s a lot to live up to; last year’s production of Peter Pan was a triumph, and was one of my favourite theatrical experiences of 2016.
Dennis Kelly has teamed up with John Tiffany, which had the makings to be a dreamlike pairing. Keeping some of the original Disney songs (albeit with a slight twist), Kelly has adapted the film onto stage, but in terms of his input, he hasn’t really added that much uniqueness in terms of storyline.
The story does entertain the children, but it fails to wow them. Unlike last year, there are no exclamations of awe this time, and whilst the production has been put together technically well, there’s hardly any magic. The puppetry creations from Bob Crowley and Toby Olié are extraordinary, but the novelty of them wears off pretty quick.
Also, the production struggles on the basis that little to no sympathy is felt for our protagonist. Joe Idris-Roberts’ Pinocchio is selfish, thoughtless of others and slightly egotistical. The character isn’t exactly likeable, so as an audience you don’t exactly get on board with their plight. It should be said that Idris-Roberts’ performance is of a fine quality, but nevertheless it’s jarring to be expected to identify with a character that offers you no decent personality traits.
What John Tiffany’s production lacks, which Walt Disney achieves, is that in the film the creators are able to bring out other traits to the wooden boy. He’s mischievous, less obnoxious and perky. Because of this, the NT’s offering never goes past surface level, and whilst it is an enjoyable watch, it has the potential to be so much more. 3/5
Review written by Alistair Wilkinson.
Pinocchio is currently showing until Tuesday 10th April 2018 at the National Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…