No matter the weather, as you walk into the Lyttelton’s auditorium for Pinocchio, you’ll find that it is snowing. A simple trick but one that inspires just the right childlike wonder for an adaptation of such a popular fairytale, but it is also a sense of magic that John Tiffany’s production of Dennis Kelly’s adaptation sometimes struggles to hold onto, as darkly disturbing as it is exuberantly heartfelt.
It’s hard to find a place here for the likes of ‘Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life For Me)’ and the desperately old-fashioned ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ though and there’s a rare lack of conviction from movement director Steven Hoggett in terms of how they’re dealt with visually. The result is a tone that feels confused and thus rarely truly engaging, though I must say the children sat near to me seemed to enjoy themselves.
And there are plenty of bright spots. Audrey Brisson is the stand-out performer as a modern-inflected Jiminy Cricket (curiously the only character to receive such treatment), Jamie Harrison’s illusion work is suitably spell-binding and for all its strangeness, Joe Idris-Roberts’ wooden boy traces an affecting journey into hug-loving humanity. If not quite a festive smash-out-of-the-park hit, this Pinocchio still offers a unique, faintly creepy brand of entertainment.