PINOCCHIO The Pantomime

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

26/11/2022 - 23/12/2022

Production Details

by Simon Leary & Gavin Rutherford
Directed by Gavin Rutherford

Musical Direction & Arrangement by Michael Nicholas Williams
Choreography by Jthan Morgan & Natasha McAllister

Wellywoodington is the place to be this Christmas! Whale watching, a topsy-turvy parliamentary circus, and toys and treats for all the family. Jump inside a fantastical storybook adventure with Pinocchio and friends as they discover what it means to be a real person.

An original pantomime featuring your favourite Pinocchio characters and pantomime players, contemporary songs, high energy dance, and shape-shifting design.

“YAGAHCWYHLFOYS” – it’s an acronym
You always get a happy conclusion when you have lovely friends on your side

Circa One, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington Waterfront
26 November – 23 December 2022
Tues – Sat 6.30pm, Sun 4pm
Extra 2pm matinees – Sat 3, 10 & 17 Dec
$18 – $54
$126 Family Pass (2 Adults + 2 Children)

Pinocchio:  NĪ DEKKERS-REIHANA | they/them |Ngāi Tuteauru, Ngā Puhi
Gepetto:  SEPELINI MUA’AU | he/him | Levī Sāleimoa, Matāutu Falelatai
Kahurangi Fairy:  JTHAN MORGAN | she/he/ia | Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Rongowhakaata, Magiagi, Sapapāli'i, Lotofaga
Willami Wētā:  FINLEY HUGHES | he/him
Thorndon Key:  TABATHA BERTEI-KILLICK | she/her
Ms. Claws:  NATASHA MCALLISTER | she/her
Fox:  EMMA KATENE | she/her | Ngāti Kahungunu

Swing Performers
MYCAH KEALL | she/her | Taranaki, Te Whānau ā Apanui 

Written by Simon Leary & Gavin Rutherford
Directed by Gavin Rutherford
Musical Direction & Arrangement by Michael Nicholas Williams
Choreography by Jthan Morgan & Natasha McAllister

Set Design:  Anne-Lisa Noordover
Costume Design:  Sheila Horton
Light Design:  Marcus McShane
AV:  Rebekah de Roo
Choreography:  Jthan Morgan & Natasha McAllister 

Stage Manager:  Natasha Thyne
Technical Operator:  Deb McGuire
Sound Engineer:  Matt Asunder

Publicity:  Eleanor Strathern
Graphic Design:  Rebekah de Roo
Photography:  Roc Torio

Costume Assistant:  Maysie Pyatt
Set Mentor:  Lucas Neal
Costume Construction:  Sharon Johnstone
Special Effects:  James Searle

Pack-in crew:  Scott Maxim, Tom Smith, James Searle, Mitchell Sigley, Shanell Bielawa, Bekky Boyce, Gina Heidekruger, Niamh Campbell-Ward, Lani Swann, Jack McGee, Callum Hodgkins

Audio Description:  Perry Piercy, Bella Nolan & Amanda Baker

FOH Manager:  Harish Purohit
Box Office Manager:  Fay Van Der Meulen
Circa Marketing:  Shalesh Vasan, Rebekah de Roo
Technical Manager:  Deb McGuire
Administrator:  Georgia Davenport
Accessibility Manager:  Kate Anderson

Proudly supported by Te Papa. Presented by arrangement with Playmarket.

Cast and Crew would like to acknowledge the Mana Whenua of Te Whanganui-a-Tara; Ngāti Toa, Te Atiawa, and Taranaki Whānui

Family , Musical , Theatre ,

2 hrs incl. interval

New panto dame shines in Pinocchio – a classic fairytale with a contemporary twist

Review by Sarah Catherall 28th Nov 2022

We’re in Wellywoodington, where Pinocchio finds himself stuck in a whale trying to get out. Will Pinocchio (played by Nī Dekkers-Reihana) and their friends escape the whale, and how will they deal with the toymaker Geppetto (Sepelini Mua’au) who isn’t happy his wooden child has wagged school?

We’re a happy, engaged mixed-generation audience, laughing, shouting out and singing along in Circa’s pantomime show. The classic fairytale is given a contemporary twist by writers Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford – the latter is also the director, and the retired panto dame who has handed up the job after 12 years of starring in the top role. [More]


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Full of fun and rich in resonance, guaranteed to appeal to all age groups

Review by John Smythe 27th Nov 2022

The new era of Circa pantomimes is upon us, featuring a sublime blend of what we all love with refreshing elements like, for example, no principle boy/girl binary romance – although there is frisson between the senior characters.

This year, writers Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford – who also wrote Circa’s panto versions of Alice in Wonderland (2019), Cinderella (2020) and The Little Mermaid (2021), all directed by the inimitable Susan Wilson – have picked Pinocchio, based onThe Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) by Italian writer Carlo Collodi, as the vehicle for pertinent socio-political commentary.

For children the moral is simply about the value of telling the truth; for adults the blight of mis/disinformation resonates along with judicious jabs at neo-liberal economics. The opening tableau of Donkeys, arrayed over the hills of Wellywoodington, collectively enthralled by a full moon, is worth reflecting on as the plot progresses.

Gavin Rutherford, who has graced the Circa pantos as The Dame since Roger Hall’s Robin Hood in 2010, has now taken over as Director. Michael Nicholas Williams remains as the highly valued Musical Director and Arranger, having MDd the original Wilson-directed Roger Hall’s Cinderella in 2006, which launched the Circa tradition.

JThan Morgan and Natasha McAllister, who have been onstage panto regulars since the revival of Paul Jenden’s Puss in Boots (2019), now choreograph the show as well as perform in it. The Rutherford, Williams, Morgan, McAllister combo gives us a dynamically-presented Pinocchio, visually enhanced by Marcus McShane’s lighting, Rebekah de Roo’s AV projections and Sheila Horton’s costume designs, on Anne-Lisa Noordover’s splendid set – with Technical Operator Deb McGuire and Stage Manager Natasha Thyne (taking over from stalwart SM Eric Gardiner) keeping everything on track.

Panto regulars will be delighted to hear ‘The Pantomime World’ tagged onto the opening number: Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Livin’ Thing’. Traditional tropes follow with JThan Morgan’s Kahurangi Fairy – a blend of Fairy Godmother and Pantomime Dame – setting the scene while flirting with a chap in the front row. Morgan flips from audacious and ebullient to dramatically portentous with alacrity.

The setup is that the mysterious disappearance of Wellywoodington’s children is coinciding with a spreading plague of Donkeys and the dastardly Rupert Fox is the mastermind behind it (a capturing of hearts and minds?). Emma Katene is every inch the wily villain, with gullible schoolboy Thorndon Key – niftily portrayed by Tabatha Bertei-Killick – trotting along in Fox’s wake. Key’s multiple properties and glittering share portfolio speak volumes.

Meanwhile Sepelini Mua’au compels out empathy as woodworker Gepetto, a poor lonely widow man – yes, we get to chorus “Ooohh…” for him. ‘Lonely’ (by Akon) becomes his theme song. He is finding his self-involved cat, Ms Claws, an insufficient cure for his plight and plans to carve a marionette child to fill the gap. Natasha McAllister delights in her wannabe influencer role and the physicality of her responses to absent-minded strokes from Gepetto are wonderful to behold.

A tree stump stands as the perfect candidate for becoming Gepetto’s substitute child – except it happens to be the home of Willami Weta who actually prefers to be alone. Finley Hughes does a great job of wrestling with Willami’s own dilemmas while attempting to fulfil his appointed role as Pinocchio’s conscience.

The transformation from stump to the Pinocchio puppet is a magic moment. Nī Dekkers-Reihana’s physical and mental progression from innocent marionette with no moral centre, through formative experiences including much amusing mispronouncing of “conscience”, to becoming a human child, is as delightful as it is salutary.

Given the Kahurangi Fairy’s plan to pluck a child from the audience as a means of tracking what Fox is up to, the arrival of Pinocchio is timely. The bid to capture this proto-child’s heart and mind – some may say ‘soul’ – drives the narrative forward, intertwined with Ms Claws’ progression from self-serving sociopath to aligning with those who care for each other as well as themselves.

The enticement to join the circus raises an audience expectation that is not realised – which is the point. Politically, the circus metaphor represents distraction and diversion from noticing corruption in the ruling classes. Instead of committing to a good education, Pinocchio becomes distracted by the carnival and ends up trapped in a cage.

When the Kahurangi Fairy wants to know how this happened, despite Willami Weta’s urgings to tell the truth, Pinocchio attempts to put the blame elsewhere by telling lies – and that is where the famous nose-growing happens. The telescopic device is clever and would be even better if it was flesh-coloured. (I won’t try to guess why it’s not or whether it can be remedied.)

Breakouts into lively song and dance numbers pepper the narrative and pep-up the pace throughout, with contributions from Natasha Bedingfield, Mika, Britney Spears, NSYNC, Katy Perry, Five, Europe and Kelly Clarkson. The entrance and dance routine to Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’ kicks the second half off to pumping start.

What with the Kahurangi Fairy’s powers depleted, thanks to losing her wand, and Gepetto being lost and feared drowned in the harbour, the jeopardy that makes for strong drama and comedy is well crafted – and a boat called Waka Kotahi, that “promises much but struggles with delivery”, becomes their means of searching for Gepetto. Suffice to say they have a whale of a time finding him, enhanced by an echo effect in their voices.

Counterpointing Pinocchio’s progression from puppet to fully realised person, the community threat is visually represented by the appearance of donkey’s ears on characters at risk. In fact Thorndon Key’s metamorphosis into total Donkey is almost complete before the resolution.

Lest we think this Pinocchio has become the good little boy Carlo Collodi envisioned, Nī Dekkers-Reihana gives us a striking final image of a strong and true adolescent (is there a gender-neutral equivalent of wāhine toa?).

This Pinocchio is full of fun and rich in resonance, guaranteed to appeal to all age groups.

Here’s how Gabe Oliver-Booth (10) sums it up:

An inviting and humorous show, rich with humour and a plot that while linking up to the real world, still has the effect of staying independent and fairy-tale induced.

I would highly recommend these Family targeted plays to anyone who enjoys a good show. Whether you are on your own or in a group, you’d still be sure to be on the edge of your seat.


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