PINOCCHIO Orange Tree Theatre

Pinocchio Orange Tree Theatre

Pinocchio – Orange Tree Theatre

An ingenious and inspiring show for all ages

Orange Tree Theatre’s Pinocchio starts in the bedroom of Hugo who is bored and lonely, as he has to isolate (because who doesn’t these days?). His mum makes him a new puppet to head out on an adventure with. The Blue Fairy then transforms Hugo into the said puppet and thus, his adventures begin.

It’s a show inspired by Pinocchio rather than an actual adaptation – and aimed at the youngest children at that – so there’s not much left from the original Collodi’s plot, other than a couple of the most iconic elements (not even much of a growing nose), but it’s surprisingly effective in what it’s trying to achieve: creating a simple, modern fairytale of familial love, affection and honesty. Nathan Queeley-Dennis does a great job as Hugo / Pinocchio and Fiona Drummond shines in the multiple roles she takes on (with at least three different accents!)

Songs by James Cleeve work astonishingly well – I say astonishingly, as they are actually catchy and memorable for kids and adults alike – a rare feat in fringe musical theatre overall, but in a relatively low-budget children’s show in particular. The “talent show” song was especially nice with some clever lyric changes. On a minus side, costumes weren’t really costumes per se – they looked slightly impromptu which is perhaps a safe choice with toddlers on stage. On a plus side, they seemed sensory-friendly.

What really impresses is how accessible it is. It’s obvious that the creative team went to great lengths for a show that’s simultaneously engaging and relaxed, interactive but not overwhelming. It welcomes all children, including small babies, and provides them with entertainment that is just beyond lovely.

Overall, it’s pretty much as good as low-budget children’s theatre gets – it’s ingenious, it’s interactive, and it’s inspiring.

Pinocchio runs at the Orange Tree Theatre until 31 December 2021.

IMAGE: Madi Mahoney in PINOCCHIO, photo by Ali Wright