Pinocchio Gets Wood at Guilford Fringe Theatre Company Online
We all know that even the most family-friendly of pantomimes is likely to brim with innuendo, so imagine one aimed solely at adults. Guildford Fringe Theatre Company is one of many who are attempting to find new ways of offering that theatre fix that so many of us are missing. While a panto is usually a tradition reserved for the winter months, in these trying and testing times, anything goes, and if you’re prepared to sit back, relax and just give in to the sheer silliness on offer, you will no doubt welcome the much-needed escapism this production provides.
We all know the classic tale of Pinocchio. Turning much-loved stories of our youth upside down and poking fun at them is exactly what panto is all about, but you won’t have ever seen anything quite like this! Nick Wyschna and Charlotte Bateup are responsible for songs that will make you cringe and laugh out loud in equal measure. Combine this with a sharp and pithy script from James Chalmers, and the result is an unpredictable rollercoaster of sheer fun and ridiculousness.
The theatre industry has been incredibly wounded by the pandemic, and panto season is usually a huge moneymaker. While many companies have drawn on their creativity to offer us performances on online platforms such as Zoom, with actors filming individually, here it’s refreshing to see a cast sharing a stage. Social distancing is of course implemented and, thanks to carefully considered camera angles and choreography, doesn’t hinder the show too much.
Performing in an empty auditorium is bittersweet to watch, however. After all, theatre is such a communal and social experience, and panto in particular relies heavily on the audience. There is no denying that it takes some time to get used to seeing actors in a show such as this performing to a camera rather than a crowd, yet the cast work tirelessly to interact with their online audience and do their utmost to make it feel as close to a real panto production as possible, which is no mean feat.
Daniel Page is a notable highlight as the Dame, Ciabatta Myflange – and yes, the name of our lead tells you all you need to know about what kind of show you are in for. The cast bounce off one another well and between them ensure there is enough energy to propel the show forward, with the pace only dipping slightly on occasion.
It is very heartwarming to watch artists giving their all to entertain us despite the current circumstances and the restrictions that have been put upon them. Pinocchio Gets Wood is a much-needed window of escapism, and while not quite panto as we know it, this is the best alternative you’re likely to see until normal life resumes.
Pinocchio Gets Wood was streamed at Guilford Fringe Theatre Company Online from 10th September until 12th September 2020. For further information about their planned Christmas production visit here.