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Pinocchio review at the Albany, London – ‘cutely old-fashioned’

Umar Butt and Floria Da Silva in Pinocchio at the Albany, London. Photo: Liam Croucher

Nearly There Yet’s sweet and playful show for primary school-aged children subtly turns the familiar tale of Pinocchio into a modern-day fable about parenting, growing up and gaining trust.

Geppetto (Umar Butt) is the over-concerned patriarch and workshop owner who desperately wanted to have a child long before his perfect puppet came to life. The trouble is that Pinocchio (a tumbling, bouncing Floria Da Silva) is too easily led.

Best pals, and wannabe megastars, Cat (Ed Stephen) and Fox (Rosie Rowlands) manage to trick the poor wooden-limbed boy out of his gold coins – not once, but twice. Mortified, he runs away and joins a circus group, only to discover Geppetto has also been conned and was swallowed by a whale.

While it retains many of the original plot points, this Pinocchio downplays the famous nose-growing element. But, thanks to Alison Alexander’s cleverly rotating set design, it largely works and keeps its young audience entertained.

Of the hard-working cast, Rowlands is especially fun to watch as the wily fox, RP-intoning cricket and cockney ringmaster. Da Silva is also a barrel-load of acrobatic charm, disguising complicated movement work as the wibbly-wobbly steps of a puppet trying its best to keep upright.

At the heart of the piece, however, is a message that’s as much for the adults as the children. Despite his repeated cries of “Be careful!”, Geppetto has to eventually learn that, puppet or real boy, his son needs to be left alone to make his own mistakes.

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Cutely old-fashioned acrobatic children’s show with a timeless message