Nothing gets you ready for the festive season like a traditional pantomime. ‘Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!’ is not a traditional pantomime however; it’s an adult pantomime – so it was SO MUCH better. We were guided through the show by a fairy (of course) – at Above The Stag theatre (Vauxhall’s LGBT+ venue).
Upon reaching the coastal Italian town of Placenta, waves of pantomime humour and innuendo washed over the audience. The pantomime dame, played by Matthew Baldwin, was deliciously sassy, cutting, witty and sharp, leaving us absolutely soaked with gags you wouldn’t want to hear while sat next to your (well, my) parents.
But you know the story – young, innocent, Pinocchio, played by Jared Thompson, tells a lie and has a growth spurt – where? You can guess – it’s an adult pantomime. In this version of the story Pinocchio also likes men which puts a whole new spin on the standard panto phrase ‘he’s behind you!’
Going a little deeper, the production does explore the themes of finding/accepting yourself, drug-use, standing up for injustice, and the joys of true love – so there were some points to reflect upon and make you think, although all very light-hearted.
Our villain, played by Christopher Lane, was suitably loathing, which is exactly what we all wanted so we could boo and jeer whenever he came on stage. Just to clarify, at no point does the villain actually come (sic.) on stage.
Andrew Beckett directed an eight-strong cast who delivered a polished performance. I have to say that I always love it when something doesn’t go quite to plan and they have to improvise and hold back some laughter – on this occasion our dame was probing someone in the front-row a little too vigorously – but it really helped to build a great rapport between the cast and audience.
Peppered with some great references to current affairs, as well as encouraging audience participation, it was a thoroughly enjoyable show full of laughs, original songs, dance, and an obligatory swimwear scene from Pinocchio – growth spurts for all.
Pinocchio – No Strings Attached is on until 11 January 2020. To book tickets and more information, visit: abovethestag.org.uk/whatson/pinocchio
By Daniel Chowdhury