Disney’s My Son Pinocchio Jr. at Southwark Playhouse
“Why is it that the people who shouldn’t have children have children?” Geppetto laments as he watches an array of kids, dressed in primary coloured dressed and trousers, bound around his toy shop demanding gifts from their exasperated parents. The proprietor is lonely and wants a son to follow in his footsteps, but when he actually gets his wish he realises that being a dad isn’t as easy as it seems.
Disney’s My Son Pinocchio is performed by children and teenagers from the British Theatre Academy. Despite their ages, most of the kids can hold a tune – although we could’ve done without some of the screaming song finales – with Joy Clark (Blue Fairy), James Sampson (Geppetto) and Felix Hepburn (Stromboli) standing out with especially strong vocals. The older children give admirable performances and the younger ones have an impressive amount of stage confidence to deliver their song and dance routines with absolute conviction.
The set design is well thought out and creative. The theatre walls – not just on the stage but all around the audience as well – feature primary-coloured picture frames and geometric patterns which makes you feel like you’re in the kids’ domain.
The costumes are cleverly colour-coordinated with the parents and youngsters during the earlier scenes, the use of “the Purge” style masks adds a sense of welcome eeriness and the Blue Fairy (Joy Clark’s) blue outfit – complete with wings – is a great combination of modern style and fairy tale chic. The lighting arrangement is timed well and – despite the set’s small size – it features many creative props such as a paint-spattered wardrobe, a train toy set and a variety of multi-purpose boxes.
Disney’s My Son Pinocchio is by children and will be enjoyed by children, but it also holds an important message for parents. You can’t fashion your offspring into tiny versions of yourself or push your own goals onto them – you have to let them be themselves; otherwise, you end up with creepy robot kids cornering you or foxes pretending to be cows.
This isn’t the show for you if you don’t like children, but don’t let the performers tender years put you off – this might not be the most polished show in the world, but it’s head and shoulders above your average stage-school production.
Photo: Eliza Wilmot
Disney’s My Son Pinocchio Jr. is at Southwark Playhouse from 26th July until 14th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.