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Pinocchio review at the Dukes, Lancaster – ‘playful and enchanting’

Lucas Button and Russell Richardson in Pinocchio at the Dukes Lancaster. Photo: Darren Andrews
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To be, or not to be good. That’s the question facing Pinocchio when he finds it’s harder being a boy than a puppet. If being chiseled from a log isn’t challenging enough, by the end of Christopher William Hill’s beautifully re-shaped new version of this much-loved story, the humanoid with a sprouting nose embarks on a quest to release his father-creator, Geppetto, from prison, saves a baby from certain death, encounters a team of tricksters, endures a kidnapping and is transformed into a braying ass.

Harder still, his sawdust brain must hardwire a moral message – that real boys need dads and should be honest and true.

But from a magical start when the puppet Pinocchio is endearingly animated into life, Louie Ingham’s visually playful production easily balances good old-fashioned home truths with the semi-surreal story.

With Mark Melville’s enchanting music and songs integral to the action, the five actors constantly emerge from all four corners of the Dukes’ auditorium to create an array of amazing characters, including Ella Vale as a sisterly good fairy, with twiggy fingered Lucas Button holding it together as the fleshed-out Pinocchio experiencing the hard knocks of growing up. It’s a demanding emotional role that must surely be the children’s theatre equivalent of Hamlet. This young actor nails it.

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Verdict
Enchanting, challenging new version of a much-loved tale 
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