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Shadowy Pinocchio at London’s National Theater

Shadowy Pinocchio at London’s National TheaterShadowy Pinocchio at London’s National Theater

A sumptuous, shadowy play of Pinocchio is scheduled to run at the National Theater of London until April 10, 2018.

An adaptation of Italian children’s writer Carlo Collodi’s 1883 tale about a magical wooden puppet who longs to become a real boy, the play includes songs from the 1940 Disney animated feature, which is largely responsible for the tale’s becoming so widely beloved.

The play is staged by English theater director John Tiffany, whose successes range from ‘Black Watch’ to ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,’ and designed by Irish theater designer and theater director Bob Crowley, Financial Times reported.

Appropriately for a play with such asubject matter, it makes extensive use of rod puppetry, from a petite Jiminy Cricket to a double-size Gepetto who towers over Joe Idris-Roberts as Pinocchio.

Crowley’s design looks simple and sumptuous at once and is far more detailed than it seems. Locations are labeled in Italian: even the huge illuminated letters that form most of the Pleasure Island set (where naughty children are turned into donkeys) spell out “Isola del Piacere”. Special effects include a fine donkey-transformation and, of course, the ever-growing nose.

The work is unsettlingly shadowy, but not excessively so. Idris-Roberts is a friendly Pinocchio, with Audrey Brisson an amusing, hygiene-neurotic female Jiminy Cricket and David Langham urbanely despicable as the Fox.

Many of the children who have seen the play so far were silent during the performance, but it did not seem to be the silence of captivation. Neither the hum of boredom nor the buzz of excitement was noticeable and much of the applause seemed dutiful.

British theater critic and author Ian Shuttleworth who wrote the present review, added: “My adult side, which observes and admires creativity, intelligence and flair, was agreeably engaged; the child in me, who wanted to be entranced, wasn’t.”

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