by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper
dir Andrew Beckett
with Matthew Baldwin, Jared Thompson, Dami Olukoya, Christopher Lane, Christy Bellis, Shane Barragan, Oli Dickson, Briony Rawle
Above the Stag, Vauxhall • 19.Nov.19-11.Jan.20
|Olukoya and Thompson|
In the Italian fishing village of Placenta, puppet-maker Gepetta (Baldwin), her sidekick Cornetta (Bellis) and their cat Chianti (Rawle) are in hiding, fugitives from a crime spree in Rome. But evil fox Figaro (Lane) suspects something is up with them. One night, part-fairy Fatima (Olukoya) brings Gepetta's puppet Pinocchio (Thompson) to life, telling him not to lie. Bullied at school for being wooden, he's tempted by a funfair on the edge of town, and also by new footballer Joe (Dickson), bought for the local team by Figaro. When Pinocchio runs away with Joe, Gepetta and Cornetta set off to find him, helped by lonely fisherman Pedro (Barragan), who has a thing for Gepetta.
As events progress, the soap-style romantic storylines are enjoyably tangled, boosted by the gender-bent mayhem. Characters are openly lusting after each other, resisting and then falling for each other and swearing like, well, fishermen. When Pinocchio lies, it's not his nose that grows. The actors dive in with gusto, playfully delivering the smuttiest dialog while deploying references to politics, current events and of course the Disney animated classic (including a sharp Jiminy Cricket gag). And each character gets a chance to break out in song and dance, numbers that are snappy and often laugh-out-loud hilarious.
|Lane as Figaro the fox|
Above the Stag's original musicals are of such high quality that they'd play well on a West End stage. They fill this small venue perfectly, with inventive production design that sets off the various scenes. Four main sets are vividly imagined, plus a nicely deployed landscape-painted curtain. The sound is, as usual, a bit tricky, with quite a few punchlines inaudible in the back rows (there are only eight). But the energy is unmissable, and there's never a dull moment as these engaging characters take on this big Christmas-themed adventure with plenty of wickedly grown-up sass.
For more info: www.abovethestag.org.uk