REVIEW: Pinocchio, The Dukes Christmas play

The cast of Pinocchio
The cast of Pinocchio

It was cold outside but inside The Dukes Round a warm glow settled over the audience as the classic tale of Jeppetto’s puppet boy unfolded.

Everyone wanted to know how Pinocchio would be brought to life by The Dukes team, and the talented crew and actors wasted no time presenting him.

Russell Richardson as Jeppetto and Lucas Button as Pinocchio

Russell Richardson as Jeppetto and Lucas Button as Pinocchio

Controlled mainly by three actors including young Lancastrian and relative newcomer Lucas Button, the specially crafted wooden puppet emerged from his father’s workbench in an eerily lifelike way.

Button then takes the reins for the majority of the show as the puppet becomes the real boy and experiences the challenges and emotions of growing up when not made of wood.

As Pinocchio quickly learns how to speak and move, Button’s human form gives way and you barely notice he’s there as Pinocchio the wooden puppet, complete with flexible joints in all the right places, steals the limelight completely.

Who knew you could feel sympathy for a piece of wood?

It’s a tale of temptations, loss, deception, sadness and joy...and sweets!

Russell Richardson, who appeared as Gandalf in The Hobbit at Williamson Park this summer, plays a downtrodden and down on his luck Geppetto and a larger than life “Whale”, while Dukes regular and whirling Dervish Josie Cerise becomes a series of characters in her usual boisterous and hilarious manner.

Ella Vale and Ben Tolley complete the five strong cast adding colour and humour to the unfolding story.

Tolley also moves to live musical instruments throughout the show too.

The pace of the story and the scene and character changes creates the feeling that there are many more actors involved.

Amongst other things, Pinocchio rescues a baby from the path of a speeding train, gets drunk, becomes a donkey and is led on a series of paths by calculating strangers posing as friends.

He is lied to as much as he lies.

And so to the nose. Camera trickery is not an option on the stage, so it was great to see some good old fashioned placing of sticks onto Button’s own nose, as he successfully creates the illusion of being attached to it.

There’s some humorous and lively songs that spring up when you least expect them, and the lighting and use of lamps and lanterns create an ambient mood.

It’s a quirky show, and at two hours long we wondered if our kids could hack it, but they were captivated throughout, the action coming from all corners of the Round continually grabbing their attention.

It also provides some great ammo in terms of telling them why they’re NOT HAVING ANY MORE SWEETS!

Button does a great job as Pinocchio, and the skill and originality in both the narrative and the acting could easily be put on a bigger stage and taken to a larger audience.

The Dukes is punching above its weight once again.

The classic Italian story by Carlo Collodi is adapted by Christopher William Hill and the play is directed by Louie Ingham.

Pinocchio runs until January 7.