Pinocchio: Creation Theatre
[Disclosure of Interest: I am honoured to be a Trustee of Creation Theatre company. I'm in awe of the talent, hard work and dedication of the people who make the company. All this means I am biased - so no star rating from me for Creation's shows.]
Pinocchio is this year’s Christmas show from Creation Theatre, and it is full of little miracles.
Instead of its usual radical overhaul of a well-loved tale, this year Creation Theatre has kept closely to the traditional story of Pinocchio – with a few fun twists. I loved this approach – given that we’re all at full capacity for unexpected twists in our real lives, it’s deeply comforting to enter the magic of theatre and watch a traditional and well-loved story told in a time-honoured way.
Beautiful sets and generously spaced table seating. I took this photo on my iPhone just before the start of the show.
Creation presents Pinocchio, who has been carved from a block of wood by master craftsman Geppetto. Once Pinocchio comes alive, he goes on an odyssey to learn what it means to be human, meeting various characters – both honourable and unscrupulous – along the way.
The original story of Pinocchio appeared as a serial in children's newspaper, Giornale per i Bambini in 1881-1883.
It’s only when Pinocchio realises that there are no shortcuts to becoming a decent, ethical person that he becomes a “real boy”. This is a beautiful message told in a very jolly way.
Each of the hugely talented cast members played multiple characters with joyous exuberance. Theatre veteran P. K. Taylor played a fabulously gorgeous Dame Cricket – who appears at crucial intervals, in clouds of tulle, to bestow advice to Pinocchio, while reminiscing about previous theatre triumphs and famous friends.
Ashlee Irish, playing Geppetto, brought a Broadway sensibility to the show with his versatility and Milly Blue’s (the blue fairy) beautiful and rich singing voice filled the theatre. I loved the performances given by Lewis Doherty, who played eight different characters throughout the show, including a Mission Impossible style fish and a police dog.
But the real hero of the show that I went to was actor Andy Owens, who stepped into the role of Pinocchio at the last minute due to sudden illness, with pretty much no rehearsal time, to carry the whole show. A mark of the quality of his performance was the fact that it was hardly noticeable that he was holding his script.
Andy Owens, stepped in at the last minute to play Pinocchio. Photo: Nick James.
Everything about this show was carefully and thoughtfully produced – from the truly gorgeous costumes and sets to the generous spacing of the seats and the free digital programme.
At a time when producing live theatre is an extraordinarily demanding challenge for all involved, Creation Theatre’s Pinocchio brings to Oxford the glorious, living magic of Christmas. I would see it while you can.
Creation Theatre is also presenting a live, online Christmas production of A Christmas Carol for those who aren't ready to go live theatre. You can book here.
If you enjoyed reading about Pinocchio, you might enjoy reading about other Creation Theatre productions including its live, online production of Grimm Tales for Fragile Times and Broken People , Keeping Up with Kassandra and the beautiful, in real life The Wind in the Willows.