Norwich Theatre Royal

> Norwich Theatre Royal

Pinocchio, this all-singing, all-dancing production straight from the Royal Opera House, heralds what promises to be an exciting 2006 for the Theatre Royal.

Forthcoming West End imports include Matthew Bourne's much-anticipated ballet Edward Scissorhands and the Almeida's powerful drama, Festen.

This Pinocchio is billed as being “suitable for ages eight and up”. So, accompanied by a suitable eight-year-old (thrilled to be up past his bedtime), how does it rate?

From the moment Geppetto (Luke Heydon, complete with comedy Italian accent and playing just the right side of bumbling fool), cuts him from a tree, it seems as if Pinocchio is on a fairground ride that just won't stop. Choreographer and director Will Tuckett never lets up the pace.

Through spoken word and song and mainly through dance, Pinocchio, played to naive perfection by Matthew Hart, is adrift in a world he doesn't quite understand.

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He didn't ask to be born, and he didn't ask to go to school either. But that's where he is sent. Not for long.

He's soon distracted by Will Kemp's deliciously corrupt puppet master Stromboli and that's when things start to go badly wrong.

Of course Pinocchio's going to ditch school to join the marionette show. He is a puppet, after all.

Charlotte Broom's seductive Fox, and cunning cat Tom Sapsford, dance rings around him too. Luckily the blue fairy is on hand to, literally, scooter in and show Pinocchio the error of his ways.

Composer Martin Ward's fantastically exuberant hurdy-gurdy folk music whirls us through a menacing Land of Toys where boys are turned into buck-toothed and braying donkeys.

A dramatic sea rescue complete with billowing backdrop and a larger than life red-eyed monster reunites our puppet hero and his dad in a tale all told at breakneck speed.

Pinocchio's final transformation into real boy had my own real boy eight-year-old grinning with satisfaction.

“Very good,” he pronounced.

“Pinocchio's nose even grows.” And that's no lie.

t Pinocchio continues until January 21. Box office: 01603 630000, or

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