Pinocchio: A Fantasy of Pleasures
Adults-only retelling is decidedly not Disney
This article is from 2011.
Sometimes the spectacle is enough. The experience of watching Company XIV’s radical reinterpretation of Pinocchio is a little like gorging on gourmet food: something sensual and rich that might not offer you too much nourishment in the long run, but feels worth it in the moment.
This Pinocchio, sourced in part from Carlo Collodi’s original fable, bears very little resemblance to the squeaky Disney fairytale: they’ve concentrated on the Blue Fairy (now Pinocchio’s love interest) and the extended metaphor of Pleasure Island rather than any nose-related moralising.
The story unfolds at the overwrought emotional levels of opera (one of the two narrators is a soprano), perhaps because it’s a natural fit for the company’s ongoing fascination with the camp, gorgeous seediness of the Baroque era where sordidness always threatens to seep through. Choreographer Austin McCormick impedes his female dancers in chunky, five-inch stilettos, which brings a sort of studied ugliness to the elegance of their classical ballet lines.
Pinocchio, played by street dancer Jay Donn, thuds heavily around the stage, his every landing deliberately crashed and clunky, and he’s paired with Laura Careless’ fluttering, rapturous Blue Fairy to heighten the contrast. On Pleasure Island, when the corsets and full skirts are stripped back to black leather and bare breasts (no, I don’t remember the Blue Fairy looking like that either) the clunkiness evolves into the hip-banging rolls of traditional burlesque. Because McCormick works at such a high aesthetic level, flipping it round to expose this dark, grotesque underbelly makes perfect sense.
Incidentally, in case the previous paragraphs haven’t been enough warning, don’t take your children. Fortunately the rogue five-year-old allowed into the performance I saw was removed before the BDSM orgy scene, where the donkeys were denoted by their gimp masks.
New Town Theatre, 220 0143, until 29 Aug, 7pm, £12–£14.