Norwich Puppet Theatre

Director Luis Boy closely follows Collodi's original story in this version of the well-known tale describing the adventures of a naughty puppet.

The show also charts the history of puppet theatre, drawing on elements from both European and Asian traditions.

In addition to glove, rod, marionette, and shadow puppets, the performers use masks to further complement interpretation. Pino-cchio is a Bunraku puppet (table-top) and his skeletal frame resembles a macabre gibbet. This crossreferences, I was informed by Luis, the original comic strip whereupon Pinocchio met a grisly end.

The staging is of simple construction, yet with the creative use of music, light and a superb array of puppets, the experience is both stimulating and enjoyable.

The audience appreciated the Punchinello and Harlequin scene, chortling appreciatively at the violent slapstick. And I was enchanted by the graceful trapeze performance of the string marionette, and the humorous hobby-horse ringmaster. I also felt that the scene in which Pinocchio gets swallowed by a shark, yes a shark, was executed with great dramatic effect, a crescendo of drumming adding to the tension. I was less enamoured with Jiminy Cricket, portrayed by the shadow of a pair of pliers, and fox and cat, who were schematic cut-outs.

I also have to confess to being confused by this sequentially different plot – only having seen the Walt Disney film. And my favourite part, in which Pinocchio's nose grows, was sadly underemphasised.

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However, the sheer physicality of the performance must be recognised and all credit is due to Mark Whittaker and Sam Dutton, who took time to explain the different styles of puppets to an enthusiastic crowd of children after the show.

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