To celebrate the first Christmas at Hull Truck's new Ferensway home, Nick Lane has conjured up a vibrant adaptation of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio for the children of the region. This production offers a fresh and different take on the classic, with a cast of actor musicians who enthusiastically bring the tale to life through a mix of stories and songs.
Pinocchio is a puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy. When Pinocchio strays away from Gepetto, the man who carves him from wood, he finds himself in a world he doesn't understand. Pinocchio discovers that Gepetto is at sea, searching for him in the water, and sets out on a rescue mission and a journey of learning that will transform his dream into a reality. Pinocchio encounters a host of wise, weird, wonderful and wicked characters who help and hinder him along the way.
The production knows its audience very well; warm up songs take place in the fully lit auditorium, actor musicians introduce themselves, the theatrical artifice is acknowledged, a sense of play and the conventions of pantomime-style booing and hissing are established. These serve to settle the young audience into the experience, to satisfy their curiosities and to invite rather than dictate the suspension of their disbelief. The transition into the story is barely noticeable as the house lights slowly dim. The gently rousing musical numbers see transfixed children sitting calmly in their seats.
The second half builds up more of a pace with livelier contemporary musical styles, (Elvis and Buddy Holly the rock and roll weasels are particularly memorable) a less than ladylike Fairy and a sneezy, sticky end to the villain of the piece. Humour works on multiple levels and there are laughs for the grown ups as well as the children.
The cast's versatility in character acting and musical performance is commendable. Particularly enjoyable are the performances of the Fox Caren Fitzgerald and Cat Rachel Winters and Jared Ashe's heart- tuggingly paternal Gepetto. Frustratingly Tom Giles is masked in his role as Pinocchio which inhibits facial expression and prevents full engagement with the character, though there are moments of lovely childlike humour in his performance which generate lots of giggles.