The National Theatre is a very popular venue for new and intriguing productions of a high-calibre. Their recent adaptation of Disney’s Pinocchio is no different.
For those that are unfamiliar with the story, Pinocchio follows a woodworker named Gepetto who yearns for a son. He creates a wooden marionette named Pinocchio, that is brought to life by a fairy. However, he is not a ‘real boy’ and seeks to become one. The story comes from Carlo Collodi’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio but my only frame of reference for the story. is the classic 1940 animated film from Disney.
Having not seen it since I was a child, I went into the play without any expectation. This adaptation is starkly different to the Disney version in that it brings forth some of the darker elements of Collodi’s original book while still making it family-friendly and accessible to children of a young age.
One of the more interesting aspects of the play was the fact that the characters were actually puppets, controlled by their puppet-masters, who voiced each character. Mark Hadfield voices and controlled the puppet of Gepetto. The raw emotion that Hadfield presented was brilliant and worked very well with his characterisation as a sad old man.
Joe Idris-Roberts was a delight as Pinnocchio himself – portraying a childish demeanour, with purposeful ‘wooden’ movements as the puppet he was meant to be.
As with every Disney classic, the film is peppered with soaring scores and lovely songs. Personally, I found the actors voices lacking in some instances but their dramatic performances more than made up for it. What was astonishing was the live orchestra that accompanied the performance, conducted by Tom Brady.
A particular highlight was the performance of Audrey Brisson as Jiminy Cricket. She and puppeteer James Charlton controlled a medium-sized puppet of the cricket around the stage, with Brisson voicing and singing in the role. Jiminy Cricket was extremely funny and very sarcastic, true to the humour most audiences would expect of a Disney film.
Jiminy’s light-hearted humour parodied The Fox, the main antagonist of the story, whose inherent darkness as a character seeped through his clever jokes. There were many jokes that possibly went over the head of the children in the audience but definitely earned chuckles from the older members in attendance.
All in all, the play was extremely well put together, a testament to director John Tiffany and the rest of the cast and crew as well as the continued brilliance of the National Theatre. I’d urge anyone who was a fan of either Collodi’s original story or the Disney version to go and watch it. Within this play, there is something for everyone.