The Adventures of Pinocchio, by writer Toby Farrow, is a completely new imagining of the oft-told Carlo Collodi story of the little wooden boy whose nose grows whenever he tells a lie. Perhaps the most famous version of this fairy tale is the 1940 Disney animated movie, which lightened the original text, and developed the more Disney friendly characters, like Pinocchio’s conscience, Jiminy Cricket.
Farrow’s production goes back to the feel of Collodi’s original story as a basis for an almost completely original text. And what he achieves is a stunning new production which, while still being recognisably a children’s fable, is a very successful self-aware comic fantasy for grown-ups. In the programme notes, Farrow tells that he is not afraid to include elements that might go over the children’s heads as they are fascinated by adult interaction, and he pulls this off superbly, giving a rich context to the narrative without ever excluding the children from the fun. He cleverly utilises some of the more memorable ideas introduced by the famous cartoon, and puts a brilliant theatrical spin. The re-invention of Jiminy Cricket as Jimmy the Cricketer, a result of a misfired spell by the Blue Fairy, is inspired, and the comedy works at many levels.
Directed by Andy Burden, the small cast are captivating, revelling in multiple roles and in the upbeat and witty original songs, by composer Pete Judge. Peta Dennis is enchanting as Pinocchio, making the wooden boy’s journey absolutely real, from his first faltering steps as a puppet, with his inquisitive nature and wilful disobedience, on his quest to become a real boy. Felix Hayes (as Jimmy, amongst other characters) was a delight to watch, as were Krissi Bohn, Eoin Slattery, Hannah Summers and Mark Ross, in a myriad of perfectly drawn characters.
But perhaps eclipsing all else, the stunningly simple but effective designs of Harriet De Winton, take us from one magical land to the next: Linguini Land, where pasta grows on trees, to the belly of a whale, via Macaroni’s Circus, and Gelati Land, where little boys who eat too much ice cream turn into an ass!
The Tobacco Factory is a stunning venue, and produces a rich stream of quality productions throughout the year and The Adventures of Pinocchio is a fitting end to another great season to a close. Exhilarating and enchanting by turns, you won’t find a better Christmas show around.