Family Show Review: The Astonishing Adventures Of Pinocchio, Hertford
The Astonishing Adventures Of Pinocchio
Things We Like
- A fun, entertaining, professional performance for the whole family to enjoy
- Discarded some of the more cornier elements of panto
- Loads of audience participation and interaction
- The carnival-themed decoration in the foyer added additional excitement before the show
- Some really good song choices which helped to tell the story
Things We Dislike
- 2 hours (plus 15 mins interval) is a long time for young kids
- From £76 for a family ticket is an expensive night out
What’s It All About?
The Astonishing Adventures Of Pinocchio is Hertford Theatre’s 2018 Christmas Show which tells the tale of the wooden puppet who longs to become a boy. Full of fun, songs, dancing, laughs and audience participation, it’s a brilliant show which will be enjoyed by the whole family.
What Do We Think?
We were lucky enough to be invited along to watch The Astonishing Adventures Of Pinocchio at Hertford Theatre on the opening night and it surpassed all of our expectations. The atmosphere, the songs, the performances, the vibrant set, the laughs, the crowd involvement – all of it was great and it somehow managed to appeal to both a middle-aged man and his 4.5 year old daughter!
There was a proper buzz about things when we turned up. Yes, it was opening night, but it was more than that. The entrance and foyer had been decorated to look like a carnival, which we later found was related to the show. There were balloons, bunting, fairground games and circus music, all of which created an exciting and immersive experience before the show had even begun. Very clever.
The plot of the classic story was new to our daughter as she’s not seen the iconic Disney film or read the book before. Her only Pinocchio knowledge was from seeing him in the Shrek films. Assuming she wasn’t alone in this, I was interested to see how they’d tell the story to the younger members of the audience and how much she’d understand.
Not intending to give too much away, but the story line had familiar elements from the Disney film (my only reference point), but also had a bit of creative licence about it. After the death of his wife Angelina (who becomes The Blue Fairy), a carpenter named Gepetto is instructed by a talking log to use a magical machine to turn the log into a life-sized puppet called Pinocchio.
Pinocchio sets off to school to learn about the world, but soon finds that he’s an outcast at the nursery rhyme school because he’s a fairy tale. In an attempt to fit in, he has his books stolen by Miss Muffet and is then tricked by Madam Fox who takes his money. To atone, he is persuaded to join Stromboli’s puppet show where he performs and is then imprisoned.
With the help of The Blue Fairy and Charlie Cricket (who are only ever seen by Pinocchio and narrate to the audience throughout), he escapes and sets off back home with Jill (of Jack and Jill fame), only to be convinced to go to Funland. After being turned into a donkey, he escapes to Whale Island after further help from his magical friends, in search of Gepetto who has been looking for his lost puppet. After getting swallowed by a whale and subsequently escaping, Pinocchio is transformed into a real life boy. Quite the astonishing adventure, I’m sure you’ll agree!
As mentioned, we both really enjoyed the show and left on a high eagerly talking about what we enjoyed. There were many positive things about the performance that are worth picking out. Firstly, the song choices were good and fitted really well with what was happening in the performance at that time. This included the likes of “Unforgettable”, “Shout”, “Money, Money, Money” and “Let Me Entertain You”. Some of these were sang with the original lyrics, whilst others were cleverly changed.
As big fans of The Greatest Showman, it was great to hear this incorporated too with “Come Alive” and “The Greatest Show” – the latter kicked off the performance and set the tone brilliantly for the rest of the night. Each song was performed well with accompanying choreography – a special shout out to the Music Team located at the front of the stage who played everything live and the young girls who comprised the backing dancers.
Another thing they did really well was the interaction with the audience which went further than just clapping, booing and cheering. You felt part of the performance rather than just someone watching. Memorable bits include Jill and her water pistol, the “Wonky Donkey” song, tickling the whale and an audience sing-a-long and dance-a-long to Chumbawamba’s classic “Tubthumping”. In addition, the performance often happened around the audience, with the steps where we were sat being used by the characters.
As an adult, something I quite liked was the fact it was a panto with a difference. It still had panto elements, such as audience participation and a sing-a-long, but it wasn’t corny, over the top or annoying. There wasn’t a “he’s behind you” in sight, which was a nice change – the focus was on producing an enjoyable show for all, rather than delivering the traditional panto. This really worked as my daughter and I enjoyed it in equal measures – something that I wouldn’t be saying about a normal panto. The few sexual innuendos and jokes helped too!
Despite having around 15 characters, the show only featured six different actors, which is a testament to their performances and the costume department. Sam Kipling as Charlie Cricket was particularly good and brought a great energy to the stage, whilst Katherine Victoria provided humour with her Miss Muffet and Madam Fox characters.
Robert Oliver switched well between the roles of Gepetto and Stromboli, whilst Josh Dorn played Pinocchio with a certain wide-eyed, stiffness which the role required. There were a few weird accents going on at times though – on looking at my daughter’s confused face, she obviously didn’t really understand Gepetto and his Northern accent!
At two hours in duration (plus a 15 minute interval) it’s longer than the usual 55 minute theatre shows we see that are designed for young children. However, despite being double what she’s used to, our daughter was mesmerised throughout. She got a tiny bit fidgety in the second half, but that was down to her being a four-year old rather than boredom. With this in mind, although the show is suitable for youngsters, I can imagine it might be a bit too long for children under three.
All in all, we had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the performance. It exceeded our expectations and was everything that a good family show should be. Hertford Theatre has a great reputation for producing fantastic Christmas shows and Pinocchio is certainly another that they can add to their list.
What Does It Look Like?
Photography was not permitted during the show, so press photos are included below:
What Do I Need To Know?
Type: Theatre, Live Show, Panto.
Dates: 1st December 2018 to 1st January 2019.
Price: £21 (Bronze Show), £22 (Silver Show), £24 (Gold Show), £11 (Relaxed Show).
Duration: Approx. 2 hours (plus 15 mins interval).
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8), Older Children (9-12).
Disclosure – We were provided with complimentary tickets to the show in order to write an honest review.