dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
A wooden puppet with a very long nose
The tale of the wooden puppet who wants to be a boy has delighted children for more than a century and this new stage adaptation ensures it's now capturing the imagination of a new generation of youngsters. Directed by Alec Fellows-Bennett, this is a Pinocchio packed full of colour, humour, song, dance and energy – and with a bit of wisdom hidden in all the fun.
Pinocchio may be played by a female, Holly Sayer, but that is quickly forgotten as she begins her adventures, learning along the way that honesty, hard work and love are what matter in the world. She is aided by Daisy Ann Fletcher as the Blue Fairy who turns up in a sprinkle of glitter dust just when she is needed most. Writer Toby Hulse has given the Blue Fairy some cracking lines as she appears disguised as a cricket, a parrot and then a tuna! And Daisy presents them brilliantly with just that humph of indignation when she is mistaken for a grasshopper, a budgie and a sardine.
Hulse's writing sparkles throughout while composer and musical director Steve Allan Jones ensures some memorable songs which encourage lots of clapping along. In her set and costume designs, Mila Sanders ensures all the necessary special effects which see Pinocchio's nose magically grow when he tells a fib and then finds him and Geppetto swallowed by a whale.
Ralph Birtwell is a lovely and gentle Geppetto who anyone would want for a dad – although he too learns that sometimes adults have to be adults. David Alwyn gives some larger than life caricatures as the puppet theatre impresario Mangiafuoco and Little Man, the evil enticer who encourages the children away from school into the Land of Play, where they will be turned into donkeys. And Martin Bassindale is a wily fox who tricks Pinocchio out of his gold coins.
Produced by Birmingham Ormiston Academy, the show features students alongside the professionals playing a range of roles from clowns and schoolchildren to the local police officer and the cat. The students have clearly been learning from the professionals as each gives a seamless performance delivered with confidence.
Staged at The Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham, Pinocchio runs until December 30.