Pinocchio: Far from wooden

Alirio Zavarce and Nathan O’Keefe. Photo: Tony Lewis

In 2009 the creative team at Windmill Performing Arts took on a brand new adaptation of The Wizard of Oz which was electric in its creative and contemporary view of a children’s classic and went on to win major awards and tour nationally as well as overseas.

Three years later, and Rosemary Myers (Director and Creator) has pulled together her team of creative collaborators again to bring another childhood favourite to the stage for a new generation with Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, the magical story of a little wooden boy who has to travel far to find more than his loving father can possibly give and appreciate what he has.

Visually, this creation is enthralling.  From the first cartoon projected on a huge tree stump to the gregarious costumes, rotating stage, practical effects (complete with growing nose when Pinocchio lies) and puppetry.  Add to this the strong cast and already this production has to be a family favourite.

Nathan O’Keefe is the bratty, yet loving Pinocchio.  O’Keefe is a well-loved performer in South Australia, having created a huge variety of roles over the years.  Yet again, his hilarious sense of physical humour combined with a cheeky yet lovable demeanour is engaging and memorable.  O’Keefe’s ability to work with a character that essentially is a bratty, ungrateful child and turn it into one that the audience wants to succeed and grow, is a testament to both Myers as a director and O’Keefe as performer.

Jude Henshall and Nathan O’Keefe. Photo: Tony Lewis

O’Keefe is ably supported by a strong cast including Danielle Catanzariti, Jude Henshall, Derik Lynch, Geoff Revell, Alirio Zavarce, and Sam Routledge.  Routledge brings a mullygrub-esque Cricket to life vocally but also manipulates the puppets.  Catanzariti is adorable as usual and has a gorgeous fragility, while Lynch, Henshall and Revell seem to ‘revel’ in their crazy characters.  Zavarce brings the heart to the production as the paternal Gepetto.

This production has definitely been contemporised for today’s young audiences. The interspersed music, created by Composer/Musical Director Jethro Woodward is frenetic, rocking and amped up.  None of the composition is particularly memorable and audiences won’t be toe-tapping like they might expect from a traditional musical.  Equally, there is a difficulty in following the lyrics of each song and they do not seem to move the story forward as would be expected in musical theatre. However style and feel of these numbers are well matched to this modern adaptation.

Overall, this is a strong, daring and exciting new work which deserves every ounce of support and demonstrates the skill of some of South Australia’s well-loved artists.  However, support of new works must include the ability to workshop and develop the art, of which Pinocchio could well  utilise.  With further development, the script and song lyrics might be tightened to assist audiences who don’t already know the story and sweep them up with Pinocchio and his mad-cap friends.  The younger members of the audience were lost for a few chunks of dialogue, and these are certainly the best gauge for a family musical!

A great new production for families (particularly with children approx 8 years+) with plenty of entertainment and laughs for the adults.  It’s creative, unique and exciting and both Windmill and State Theatre Company SA deserve every success on this production now and in the future.

Pinocchio is playing at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide until 28 July 2012.  Bookings are available through BASS online or by calling 131 246.

Hayley Horton

Hayley was an arts worker in South Australia for twelve years working freelance for small to medium clients as well as for companies such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, State Theatre Company SA, Urban Myth Theatre of Youth and the Australia Business Arts Foundation. As part of her freelance work, Hayley founded the ATG Curtain Call Awards (which is now an annual gala event), co-produced three 24 Hour Show charity fundraiser events, has judged for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and reviewed for Aussie Theatre and the Adelaide Theatre Guide. Hayley now runs a boutique events and arts management business, Footlight Events and in her spare time, is involved with Adelaide’s amateur theatre community as a producer, performer and director.

Hayley Horton

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