Review: The Perils of Pinocchio, adapted by Pat Whymark & Julian Harries, Common Ground Theatre Company

The Perils of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi, adapted by Pat Whymark & Julian Harries, Common Ground Theatre Company, Seckford Theatre Woodbridge, December 17 2011, (The Perils of Pinocchio is at Porter Theatre, Framlingham College 20-24 December and Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, 27-31 December)

An audience never quite knows what it’s in for when Julian Harries and Pat Whymark are at the helm. The Common Ground Theatre Company’s The Perils of Pinocchio could have gone a number of ways but it settled on a surreal version of Carlo Collodi’s 19th century story of Pinocchio, the puppet who must undergo the rigours of adolescent humankind and become a real boy.

We first meet an Italian family of acrobats, the Flying Calzonis, musical atmosphere provided by Pat Whymark’s score and Julian Harries’ accordion. Young Pietro (Joseph Reed) is desperate to escape his doting mother (Tracy Elster) and prefers life in the fast lane to practising the finer points of the Triple Whopper. After some first rate miming from Josh Overton, Stefan Atkinson, Tracy Elster and Joseph Reed the inevitable happens: Pietro falls and is knocked unconscious. Thus far it’s all a bit tame and the audience relatively quiet, desperate not to miss any of the clever dialogue.

Then Pietro begins his dream and everything plunges into Harries-style anarchy. We enter a world of talking trees, a Blue Fairy, the scheming Fox and Cat, and some dark morality play scenes which highlight the peregrinations of Pinocchio as he blunders his way through the dilemmas of the human journey.

The astoundingly athletic Joseph Reed as spiky-haired, carrot top Pinocchio could not be bettered. He was barely off stage and provided the level of audience believability and sympathy that the mad-cap performance needs in order to make the piece work.

Tracy Elster as Serafina, the essence of Italian motherhood, is superb and even better as the Blue Fairy who offers hope to a confused Pinocchio as he does battle with Julian Harries’s evil Signor Mozzarelli (yes, you’ve got it – the Big Cheese!) and his white, fluffy Health and Safety owl, Twit Woo.

Carol Twinch