In Pinocchio, dreadful things keep happening to the puppet hero. He's tempted away by the wicked puppet-master Stromboli, turned half-way into a donkey, threatened with being melted down for glue and repeatedly told that it's all his own fault. Will Tuckett's dance-theatre production has an inventively creepy way with the story, from Pinocchio's stiff-limbed walk to that terrifying glue factory.
Tuckett's show, created for ROH2 in 2005, was a follow-up to his hit The Wind in the Willows. It's a much bolder show. All the characters speak and dance, and a pair of singers comment from the sidelines. It rattles along, though the whole production is better at darkness than at being tender.
Phil Porter's words are in garbled English. Stromboli sings about "kangarooskis", and Gepetto, the woodcarver who adopts Pinocchio, sets out to rescue him in a "boaty". Porter clearly had a good time writing it, but it can be hard to follow. Still, the basic narrative is clear.
Martin Ward's music is a mix of folk and gypsy, Hungarian violin and hectic saxophone. The designs are brilliant. The Quay Brothers' sets are bold and flexible, with oak trees and whales appearing on the Linbury stage. The most unnerving scene is Stromboli's fake Land of Toys, with a backdrop of a leering clown. Once the glue factory plot is revealed, the clown reaches long, paper-concertina arms across the stage, chasing the terrified donkey-boys.
Nicky Gillibrand dresses Pinocchio in a layered costume of tights and panels. Wood grain marks out dancer Christopher Akrill's muscles, using human anatomy to suggest a jointed puppet body. Stromboli's bright-striped trousers are already grubby, while his lurid yellow waistcoat won't meet over his checked shirt. The Blue Fairy wears a long ballet dress, making her entrance on a push scooter.
Tuckett's dances are brisk and effective, illustrations of character and action. The production is strongly cast, with Ewan Wardrop as a swaggering Stromboli, relishing the words and the plots. Akrill is a sweetly inquisitive Pinocchio, looking about him in wonder. Andrew Corbett dodders genially as Gepetto. Elisabetta D'Aloia is a quirky Blue Fairy, while Charlotte Broom poses wittily as the Fox.
To 5 January (020-7304 4000)Reuse content