July 12, 2012


July 12, 2012

Based on the books of Carlo Collodi
by Julianne O’Brien
Windmill Theatre and the State Theatre Company of South Australia
Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre.
July 11. Tickets: $25 – $47.
Bookings BASS 131 246
Until July 28.
Malthouse Theatre Melbourne season
September 6 – 29.

First appearing in 1883 in the stories of Italian writer Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio, the mischievous wooden puppet who longs to become a real boy, has become a modern archetype, written about in numerous translations and adaptations and catapulted into pop culture in the immortal 1940 Disney movie.

Following on from their 2009 re-jig of L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wizard of Oz, Windmill Theatre, in collaboration with State Theatre, has also given the Pinocchio stories some contemporary tweaking.

Director Rosemary Myers and writer Julianne O’Brien have kept the story’s core elements. The creation of the boy, emerging from a block of wood at the skilful hands of Geppetto the toymaker (affectionately played by Alirio Zavarce), and the plot by fiendish Stromboli (the mercurial Geoff Revell) to steal him away from his home, are central.

Present also are Pinocchio’s fellow travelers and party animals, Fox and Cat (the lively Derik Lynch and Jude Henshall), and his guides and conscience – the Blue Fairy (now called Blue Girl and hauntingly played by Danielle Catanzariti) and the cynical wise-cracking Cricket (no longer Walt’s Jiminy ) steered by puppeteer Sam Routledge. As Pinocchio, Nathan O’Keefe is a delight, from his stringy puppet walk to his crackling lie-detector extending nose, his performance is anything but wooden.

But with many Pinocchio episodes and variants to choose from, the production, at just under two hours, runs the risk of carrying too much narrative freight. Perhaps there is not room for two contrasting worlds to Geppetto’s tranquil hearth – Stromboli’s evil Playland, luring children away to be turned into carnival donkeys, as well as the dream factory Strombollywood, even if the latter is a juicy satiric swipe at the narcissism of media celebrity.

We can also wonder why, in the brilliantly staged sea scenes, Pinocchio and his father escape from the entrails of a large shark and not the biblical regenerative whale of previous stories.

But there is no escaping the extraordinary flair and the visual and musical style of this dazzling production. Rosemary Myers has gathered her Wizard crew again. Designer and illustrator, Jonathan Oxlade, in combination with video designer Chris More, has created a versatile décor using a large revolving wooden hexagon on to which are projected cartoonish cityscapes, sea scenes and funparks, all in vintage Looney Tunes colours and complemented by Geoff Cobham’s outstanding lighting.

The music – a succession of catchy, sweet pop/rock ballads, all fetchingly performed by the cast and impressively delivered from the pit by composer and MD Jethro Woodward and musicians, Shireen Khemlani and Paul White – completes the experience .

Even in the crowded, uncertain world of new musicals – given some narrative nipping and tucking – this Pinocchio should win by a nose.

Murray Bramwell

Published in slightly abridged form as :
“Flair and style bring this wooden boy home” The Australian, July 13, 2012. p.15

1 Comment »

  1. Very readable review! Thanks for the insights.

    Comment by Carmel Williams — August 21, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

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