With guest reviewer Aria Noori, aged 12.
Pinocchio – the little wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies – isn’t quite so little in this production from Windmill and the State Theatre Company. Nathan O’Keefe in the title role towers over many of his cast mates, but carries it with such childlike joy – and young manipulative ignorance – that the almost awkward height of the boy is endearing.
In 2009, Windmill’s last big-scale family musical production was The Wizard of Oz, building off the established stage show (in turn based on the film) with new musical arrangements and a bizarrely twisted lens. While the production toured to Sydney, a much larger scale tour was planned before the rights were stripped by virtue of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production opening on the West End.
Partially to avoid a similar loss, this Pinocchio doesn’t derive from Disney’s 1940 animation, but is a new version built off Carlo Collodi’s original stories. Created by director Rosemary Myers with writer Julianne O’Brien, Windmill have shifted the emphasis of the work off the nature of lies which we all associate the story with, onto lessons of greed and love.
Myers and her creative team mix both flashy stage technology with obvious and delightful theatre trickery. Geoff Cobham puts on just as much as a light show we’ve come to expect, with his trademark balance of creating lighting which is at once obvious but manages to fit perfectly within the action and the rest of the design. Jonathon Oxlade’s stage includes several revolves, where much of the scenic design and transitions are created by projected imagery (video designer Chris Moore) onto an otherwise blank wooden structure representing a tree stump.
It’s the moments when the play fully invests in the unadorned theatrics of the affair and the environment, though, where it truly comes alive. As Geppetto (Alirio Zavarce) “carves” Pinocchio out of a tree trunk, we simply have O’Keefe hidden in a wooded tube, which drops down in layers before the boy is reveled. As Geppetto searches for Pinocchio out at sea, we see Zavarce’s legs sticking out from under the row-boat, as pieces of blue material spin around the base of a revolve. Cricket (a puppet operated and characterised by Sam Routledge) frequently breaks the fourth wall and makes jokes often more about the audience and the act of watching a play than the play itself. These moments are also embellished as the band, rabbit ears sticking up over the pit, are joined by cast members, costumes and all, to build up the sound.