Pros: The first twenty minutes of the performance are absolutely jaw-dropping.
Cons: Some elements of the choreography feel repetitive.
Jasmin Vardimon, the choreographer of Pinocchio, is one of the most influential figures of the dance scene in Britain and arguably in the rest of the world too. Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells since 2006 and recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Holloway, University of London, her work is known also in the USA, Asia and the Middle East.
When I was preparing to interview her a few weeks ago I was immediately struck by the company’s focus on accessibility, which I consider the hottest topic in contemporary arts. Watching Pinocchio, the attention on human behaviour and diversity is evident. The show is designed for the whole family and, despite its lengthy development, the story is linear and visually easy to follow. Where significant cuts are required, the cricket’s voice offers narrative support. My only advice for those going to see it with young children would be to impose a trip to the toilet before the start, as ninety minutes without interval can be quite challenging.
Coming from the ancient tradition of Italian marionettes, puppet theatre has become less popular in modern productions — especially in the form of wire-controlled figurines — and nowadays it’s particularly rare in London. In the case of Vardimon’s Pinocchio, the stage itself has been transformed by Guy Bar-Amotz into a gigantic theatre of marionettes, revealing mechanical tricks that normally happen behind the scenes. Stacks of yellow chairs and other pieces of scenario hang overhead, and members of the cast are attached to strings or called to manipulate them as if they were themselves puppets or puppeteers. Gravity-defying routines occur five metres above the floor, like the one with the Fox and the Cat in the Inn of the Red Lobster which sees tables and chairs suspended in air.
The first twenty minutes are breathtaking. Through Chahine Yavroyan’s clever lighting, we are shown the shadow of Geppetto carving his beloved Pinocchio. A music box made of human bodies turns with absolute smoothness and the Fairy has some magic tricks up her sleeve. But it is with the appearance of Pinocchio that the show reaches its pinnacle. In the role, Maria Doulgeri is truly memorable. The plasticity of her body is perfect to represent both the stiffness of the wooden puppet and the suppleness of the boy. A duo with Geppetto (David Lloyd) reveals her impressive versatility and it’s a shame that her skills are underused. By the end of the performance, her moves felt a bit repetitive and left me craving some more spectacular elements. The show seamlessly blends The Chemical Brothers with folk music of the Faroe Islands; Beyoncé with Shostakovich.
After so many successful original productions, Vardimon’s decision to give life to a well-known traditional fable is an undisputed achievement. With moral teachings and darker undertones, Pinocchio’s adventures of discovery and defeat were devised by author Carlo Collodi as an educational journey aimed at the hearts of children and adults alike. The Jasmin Vardimon Company holds the merit of translating faithfully these qualities into body language, preserving all its immediacy and prominence.
Author: Carlo Collodi
Director: Jasmin Vardimon
Choreographer: Jasmin Vardimon
Producer: The Jasmin Vardimon Company
Booking Until: 18 December 2016
Booking Link: http://jasminvardimon.com/productions/pinocchio/