Court One, Christchurch

17/01/2008 - 02/02/2008

Production Details

Theatrical Magic With No Strings Attached

PINOCCHIO, The Court Theatre’s latest holiday production, marks a bold new direction in children’s theatre where theatrical magic is the name of the game. The classic fairytale is brought to life by a cast of three actors using an assortment of masks, puppets and a script created especially for The Court Theatre’s production.

Artistic Director Ross Gumbley describes his policy as one of "raising the bar – every success means we work harder on our next show rather than resting on our laurels or slipping backwards". With children’s shows at The Court regularly selling out the time had come for a new challenge. "There are precious few scripts out there that are truly magical or treat children as intelligent audiences with a huge capacity for imagination. So we decided to create one using the talents of the people here at The Court."

The Court’s first choice to direct and devise this exciting project was Patrick Duffy. As a founding member of improvisation troupe The Court Jesters as well as an accomplished director and designer in his own right, Duffy was a perfect fit for the project, having directed The Court’s THE UGLY DUCKLING and BAD JELLY THE WITCH and more recently designing costumes for THE PRODUCERS. As he looked for a story that contained the right mix of narrative and fun theatrical moments, Duffy was captured by the magic and morality of PINOCCHIO, proposed a production that utilized his experience in the World Buskers Festival and World of Wearable Art to combine actors and costumes with hand-made masks and puppets (including a giant whale) to create a unique world for the play.

A two-week period of workshops was held in December 2007 where the cast and creative team played and improvised with the story, finding new and fun ways to convey the key events of the plot. Duffy would direct the scenes and Gumbley, in the self-described role of "note-taker, dramaturg and occasional referee" then compiled the results of these sessions to create the script. The end result is a magical story of Pinocchio’s journey from newly carved puppet through a series of adventures involving a mischievous fox and cat, malcontent marionettes, culminating in Pinocchio rescuing his "father" Geppetto and earning the right to become a "real boy".

Gumbley feels PINOCCHIO is a bold new direction for children’s theatre and will set a new standard for children’s entertainment at The Court Theatre. PINOCCHIO runs from January 17 until February 2 with shows at 10am and 12pm Monday-Friday and 10am only on Saturdays. All tickets are $7. Duffy urges families to come along to see "a faithful retelling of a classic story with theatrical magic – and no strings attached."

Tim Bartlett, Monique Clark and Robbie Hunt  

45 mins, no interval

Tickled imaginations would have welcomed more interaction

Review by Lindsay Clark 26th Jan 2008

In the face of film and the huge range of street entertainment offered by the current World Buskers Festival, children’s theatre in Christchurch continues to pull them in. The promise of live stage performance and make-believe is as attractive as ever. The Court has put some effort into ‘raising the bar’ for its youngest patrons and Patrick Duffy, responsible for direction and mask making in the current piece has cranked it up a good peg or so.

The concept is a simple one, played out against cleverly revolving black screens where the elements of a set – a door, a cosy fire, even whale ribs – can be sketched with flourishes by the trio of versatile actors involved. The quick revolve also allows for Pinocchio’s ‘normal’ mask to be switched for the long-nosed result of his untruthful habit in the twinkling of a blink.

Duffy and his team pay considerable attention to the physical opportunities offered by the story and characters. The initial stalking of a likely but tricksy log of wood for old Gepetto’s new puppet sets an expectation of more nimble spectacles to come and frequently they do. Our naughty puppet sets off for school, but of course he is waylaid by many an adventure before he and his old papa are reunited and he becomes that best of states – real.

The play is most successful when the beautifully crafted masks and simple pared down movement tickle the imagination in clear circumstances: a fight over a wig, the miraculous arrival of the rescue pigeon … The parade of characters and events ensures that these moments arrive regularly.

The overall story line is a little blurred however, lost in the distractions mentioned above. Perhaps the intention is to cater especially for short attention spans. Certainly the audience was well engaged and would have been receptive to more interaction had this been invited.

My four year old assistant was of the strong opinion that apart from the blond actor, the magic nose and the dancing cricket, the best bit was seeing the Real Actors afterwards in the foyer. There is really no substitute.


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