Monday, 5 August 2019

REVIEW: My Son Pinocchio Jr. at the Southwark Playhouse

The British Theatre Academy was founded by Mathew Chandler aimed at offering young performers under the age of 23 a chance to develop their skills and confidence. This season they present five shows, four at Southwark Playhouse and one at the open air theatre at Minack in Cornwall. 

My son Pinocchio jr is a stage version of the Disney film of 1940 and later TV film, and includes some of the songs from that film. In particular there are lovely renditions of "When you wish upon a star" and "I've got no strings". It's hard to fail to create, with this charming father son story , Disney music and hoardes of enthusiastic kids, a delightful touching stage show.

It is simply set in the round using very large boxes to hold props and create platforms and has the feel of a children's playroom with the kids acting out the story to each other. The large wooden wardrobe becomes an entrance but also provides the costumes for the various characters that they portray. Five toys are gently flown out when we are taken into the flashback of Pinocchio's life.

The show must have been produced in teams with four young children playing the fairies in training, who we first meet giggling under a white sheet as we enter the venue, four older ones the young children of the town and four oldest playing the parents of the town. Each team is drawn from a pool of forty performers making a total prepared for the show of over 120 with just 16 appearing each performance. They all throw themselves with great energy and enjoyment into their roles. Many keep it simple by speaking the words to the music but the effect is an entertaining hour which retells the story of Pinocchio from puppet to boy via Stromboli's puppet show, Pleasure Island and of course the whale. 

No attempt is made to grow his nose when he lies but instead he suffers a tickley twitch but as the love grows between him (played by Ethan Quinn) and Geppetto (James Sampson) he becomes a real boy. On the night I saw it Joy Clark as the Blue Fairy, Felix Hepburn as Stromboli and Paul Sarte as a fairy
called Sue and a horse, as well as the actor playing Professor Bounragazzo, stood out from the crowd in their solo moments. 

However this is not about individuals but about the ensemble working together and having fun creating theatre and for that the British Theatre Academy and this cast are to be applauded.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: unreserved stalls | Price of ticket: £22
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