I was tired. I had been stuck in traffic for half an hour on the M4. I had rushed from a long day at work. When I eventually arrived at Taliesin Arts Centre last Thursday, the foyer was packed!
As I took my seat in the beautiful auditorium, I admit, I was in not in a good mood!
My mood did not stay low for long…
Over the next 90 minutes I was completely and utterly transported to another world. I was moved from peals of joyful laughter, to moments of despair with tears rolling down my cheeks.
The piece tells the story of Pinocchio, a marionette who faces a multitude of challenges in his quest to become a real boy. Rather than being based on the Disney version which most of us know, this production is based on the original book by Carlo Collodi, written in 1883.
The set, designed by Associate Director Guy Bar Amotz and Director Jasmin Vardimon, has a feel of a marionette theatre. It comprises bare black walls with a variety of bright yellow wooden structures suspended from the flies on a series of black ropes and pulleys. Throughout the performance these are manipulated by the company to create a variety of locations through which Pinocchio moves. The imagination of the set is simply breath-taking. This is piece performed in 3 dimensions with both set and performers able to fly through the air just like marionettes!
A particular highlight of the set (amongst many other such exciting, imaginative, theatrical moments) is in a scene towards the end of the production. Pinnochio and Geppeto are on a raft which is swallowed by a whale. A sheet of black plastic was pulled across the stage and 2 performers manipulated the bottom, forming a gaping orifice in to which the two characters were swallowed whole! A spine chilling moment – theatre at its best, by disbelief was well and truly suspended!
The video projection worked well with the animation of Jesse Collet and technical skill of Andy Morris making a small fire spring out of nowhere and adding sparkle to the movements of the good fairy.
Vital to any piece of theatre which has so little dialogue the sound design was accomplished and worked well accentuating the moods of the piece while never becoming too prominent- like a film score which beautifully underplays the action. Without it you would note its absence, but when it’s there it supports it beautifully.
The performances of the ensemble were all outstanding. Particular note given to Maria Doulgeri for taking on the title role. She brings an innocence and likeability to the role which is so important for an audience to become invested in the piece. David Lloyd, as Pinocchoi’s father Gepetto, brought a real warmth to the evening, with many truly touching moments between the two of them, not least in the belly of the whale. Mention should also be given to Esteban Lecoq for his portrayal of the Wiley Fox and Uros Petronijevic as the Cat, who together added many moments of comedy, with a sinister edge which gave the performance a crackling edginess.
The ensemble of Emma Farnell-Watrson, Aoi Nakumura, Stefania Sotiropoulou and Alexandros Stauropoulos were superb throughout, each with their particular skillset and moments to shine. Each performer demonstrated clear characterisation and clear vivid storytelling throughout.
Jasmin Vardimon created the piece with the company at their base in Kent. The concept and direction are wonderfully imaginative, creating an absorbing world, with storytelling which needs very few words. The use of the narrator – a face created from the hands of the company, appearing every so often to move the story along with a short paragraph, was a wise decision, making the piece accessible to those with no background or understanding of dance theatre.
This is a beautifully uplifting piece of performance which I would urge everyone to try to catch. Unfortunately, Pinocchio isn’t due back in Wales, but make sure you look out for this fantastic, inspirational company when they return. I know I certainly will!
Read our reviewers’ views on Pinocchio:
Beautifully inspiring warm, human theatre.