Theatre Review: ATP’s Pinocchio a magical delight

By Jaime Burnet

Don’t think since you know the movie or the novelization, you don’t have to see the show. The enrapturing quality of The Old Trouts Pinocchio is such that, until you’ve seen it, you can’t begin to conceive of what you missed. Once this realization sets in, you will be glad you spent the night at a puppet show rather than getting trashed and groped at your favourite bar. Seriously, it’s that good.

When audiences first meet the naughty little wooden boy, his evil laughter reciprocates as waves of mirth around the Martha Cohen Theatre. And just when you think you can no longer laugh at Pinocchio’s successive outbursts of evil, Grover-like cackles, the theatre quiets enough for the gurgling giggles of a delighted baby, overcome with the hilarity of it all, to bubble up to remind audiences it still is funny the nth time and everyone breaks down into hysterics once again.

This interaction between audience and actors can’t be simulated on videotape. Everything must go smoothly throughout, there no cuts and retakes, audiences acutely aware of the coordination and hard work an Old Trout show requires. It’s enough to overshadow even the most advanced computer animated movie. Both obviously entail extensive effort, but a film only presents the end result, while a play shows both the product and the art of pulling it all off. Well, somewhat. Every now and then, a pair of feet poke out as a prop moves off stage or crew members work the wind machine in plain sight, but many marvellous tricks go unexplained, leaving audiences awestruck and captivated.

The world premiere of Pinocchio at Alberta Theatre Projects, brought charmingly and vibrantly to life by the Old Trout Puppet Workshop and director Vanessa Porteous, illustrates the mysteries and complexities of life while bringing a simplistic wit enthusiastically appreciated by all. While many cartoons attempt universal appeal by blending adult concepts into a child-like atmosphere, the cast of Pinocchio achieves it effortlessly by transforming its entire audience into mesmerised children, and then delighting them with, elemental humour.

The only unfortunate difference between The Old Trout’s Pinocchio and the movie is, as soon as it’s over, you can’t rewind it and watch it again as you will undoubtedly want to. However, the experience is so fantastic and exceptional you likely won’t have to see it again. The sights and sounds of this masterpiece of magic and imagination will remain long after that little puppet has become a real boy.

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