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Review: Pinocchio (King's Head Theatre)

Charles Court Opera returns to the King's Head for their tenth annual 'boutique' pantomime

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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December's here and with it comes a raft of pantomimes of all shapes and sizes, for all tastes and leanings. From the large and polished, to the small and rough round the edges. Charles Court Opera's tenth outing of its 'boutique panto' is definitely the latter.

Disney's Pinocchio is considered one of the finest animated features ever made, but this incarnation is not one you'll easily recognise. The titular role is still a wooden puppet, yearning to become a real boy, his nose elongating with every fib, but that's about where the similarities end.

After falling into a pond and getting saved by a talking neon dogfish named Donald (there's at least five Trump jokes throughout the piece), Pinocchio (Joshua Da Costa) meets Phileas Fox (Robin Bailey) who has found a golden egg and plans to sell it to make his fortune. Pinocchio promises to help Phileas but they run into Jiminy Cricket (Matthew R J Ward) whose flea circus is failing and is under orders from the evil El Tobasco (John Savournin) to find the golden egg.

Jiminy and El Tobasco hatch a plan to kidnap Pinocchio and put him to work in their travelling show. This is followed by a bizarre audience participation section with a loose resemblance to The Great British Bake Off. Phileas and Shelly the singing snail (Francesca Fenech) set out to save Pinocchio with the help of the egg, which has now hatched and taken the form of a Spanish Wishing Chicken (Nichola Jolley).

Admittedly, it's the kind of madness that you'd expect from a pantomime, except it's very hard to see any point in it all. A moral of sorts is tacked on to the final scene but it all just seems a tad trite.

The cast of six are a talented bunch of singers, warbling their way through a medley of classic tunes from Queen to Abba, The Beatles to Britney. But the sound is lost on numerous occasions, unforgivable in a space not much bigger than my living room.

However, with the exception of Savournin whose hilarious El Tobasco is the Spanish love child of John Cleese and Russell Brand, this is not a cast of comedians and most of the jokes and panto puns fall flat.

I could tell you it's worth checking out for yourself, but I'd be scared my nose might grow.

Pinocchio runs at the King's Head Theatre, Islington until 7 January 2017.

Click here for our dedicated pantomime and Christmas page

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