Thursday, February 29

Pinocchio – Hull Truck Theatre

Theatregoers braved freezing temperatures on Wednesday evening to see a production of Pinocchio at the Hull Truck Theatre.

It never got much warmer inside, to be honest – so was glad I wore socks, scarf, gloves, but I never expected to keep them on once seated.

But that’s my only gripe on what was a magical night of colour and energy.

Everyone knows the age-old story of how poor, lonely carpenter, Gepetto, carved a puppet out of a piece of pine he found in the forest.

In this thoroughly enjoyable adaptation by Mike Kenny, the pine was left behind by Stromboli (Patrick Dineen), ringmaster of a travelling circus, who was transporting his puppets, Colombine (Deb Pugh) and Harlequino (Niall Ransome).

As Gepetto (James Clyde) picked up the pine log in the forest, it lit up, having had a spell cast on it by the Blue Spirit (Fatima Niemogha).

As Gepetto worked tirelessly in his shed, to create his lifelike puppet, other creatures gathered outside interested in his progress.

Two such creatures, Fox (Michael Hugo) and Cat (Joanna Holden) were shady characters who only had their own interests at heart. I loved ‘em.

Finally, Pinocchio emerged and a cuter sight I never did see. Played by Eliza Blair, this wooden wonder was a bundle of unstoppable energy, with bright red rosy cheeks, red bobble hat, colourful dungarees and the famous Pinocchio nose – not too long at this point.

In fact, Pinocchio’s costume, colourful as it was, was perhaps the dullest of all the costumes on the night. When on stage together, these costumes were an assault on our senses, so fantastic were they. Garish, ragged, torn, outlandish, colourful, mismatched – seeing is believing; they were a very, very important part of the show.

The setting held its own amidst all this costume chaos, with huge red velvet swags framing the wooden stage, while gnarled tree branches, ladders and goodness knows what formed the backdrop. And the later Fun Land scenes were simply amazing – coloured strip lights underfoot, trolley loads of goodies, twinkly spectacles and Space Hoppers.

Aided and abetted by such theatrical abundance, Pinocchio, with the help of a live-in cricket (dual role for Deb Pugh), navigated untold dangers on the way to becoming the real child old Gepetto had dreamed of.

The hoping-to-be-real puppet is naughty time after time, while being too trusting, gullible and not at all streetwise.

We witness Pinocchio tied to a tree, be swallowed by a giant fish, be tricked into losing five precious gold coins and enjoy the dizzying delights of Fun Land – but break promise after promise to his maker who, himself, travels the world to try to find his errant, wooden creation.

All this instead of going straight to school like Gepetto had instructed.

And, yes, children, Pinocchio’s nose did grow with each lie – until it took four or five “creatures” to keep it aloft.

Talking of children, there were many in the audience and their innocent comments at events on stage were a joy to listen to.

There probably was a message in this production of being loyal, not lying etc etc, and facing the consequences of misbehaving, but it wasn’t rammed down our throats.

The amazing cast were relentless in their pursuit of entertaining us in the, admittedly not very full, theatre. Every word uttered was loud and clear, with tuneful singing to match – accompanied by live musicians who appeared at intervals.

Four out of the eight cast had more than one role, but were believable in whatever guise they appeared in.

Blair as Pinocchio seemed to have springs instead of feet – never pausing for breath. Fantastic.

And the snow that fell on the splendid cast at the show’s end, was the icing on a truly enjoyable festive treat. Well done to all concerned.

Running until Sunday, December 31st, 2023; 7pm nightly. matinee times vary. Tickets cost from £10. Call (01482) 323638 or visit www.hulltruck.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 29th November 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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