There was a lot of hype surrounding Little Eggs Collective’s new show Pinocchio at the Sydney Fringe Festival and it absolutely lived up to those expectations. The show was a testament to the full capabilities that can be achieved through the Sydney Fringe Festival and certainly set the bar high for other creatives. Pinocchio blends theatre with live music, dance performances, song and mime in a converted warehouse space and is impressive in using all these elements to create a unique audience experience. This show was no mean feat to pull off so Little Eggs Collective should be commended for their professionalism and the scale of the production from such a small company.
To put it simply, Pinocchio is an adult version of the beloved Disney fairytale which originated from Carlo Collodi’s 19th century novel, but the wordless 45minute epic is much more than that. It tells the tale of Geppetto, the puppeteer (Mathew Lee) and his love for his five puppets (Annie Stafford, Grace Stamnas, Laura Wilson, Max Harris and Oliver Shermacher), but despite this love they are still corrupted by the overbearing political ideologies of Italy on the cusp of the Second World War.
From the minute audiences stepped into the giant Warehouse Stage One they were transported to Italy through the harmonious sounds of the clarinet performed by Oliver Shemacher and Max Harris. Their live scoring throughout the performance was tasteful and effortless, it set the tone for the entire piece and became a crucial element to translate the emotions in light of the lack of dialogue throughout the piece. Along with their beautiful music, live vocal performances from Annie Stafford, Laura Wilson and Grace Stamnas were absolutely crucial to the piece and beautiful to listen to. At times their stunning harmonies gave me chills.
Don’t be scared off by the lack of dialogue. The story is easy to understand and the creative decision to remove all spoken words by director Julia Robertson added to the overall impact of the piece. Communicated through music, lyrics and the bodies of the actors themselves, the narrative evoked a great response from the audience. In particular, the expressive faces of the actors and their body language made the narrative easy to follow and was highly engaging. This kept the audience captivated and was a highlight of the production.
The epic narrative explored the harms of totalitarianism and the dangers of a hive mind attitude. In the end Geppetto became subject to the whims of those around him, as despite the guise of being a puppet master he becomes a puppet of the regime.
The story looks at the childlike love and wonder that is born in the face of adversity. It poses an important question about how we can cope with events despite what is going on around us. The story is timeless and is a testament to the strength of humanity. After an affecting performance, one can’t help but feel hopeful for the future but also heartbroken about the past. It’s not a story that seeks to blame anyone for what has happened, but rather takes a brutally honest look at what we as humans do.
Music was used almost entirely thought the piece, in an enjoyable and sometimes harrowing manner. Robertson’s choice to use traditional Italian war songs was a clever one, it grounded the piece in the historical reality which it was created. Quotes in Italian and English were projected onto the set and gave the performance an ominous feel, setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the scene.
The multitalented cast were what gave this performance its particular edge. Not only were Shemacher and Harris playing the clarinet but the entire cast were singing and performing full scale musical numbers with a grandeur that was reminiscent of a Broadway show. It was clear that Robertson along with choreographer Georgia Britt harnessed the existing talent that the performers had and worked it into the performance.
While the music performances at times really excited and intrigued audience members (along with entertaining them) it did feel a bit gratuitous at times. It left me wondering if they were always necessary or if they were just added for shock value or to create a ‘wow’ factor. While at times was successful in impacting on the audience, the performance could have been just as good without them. These gimmicks sometimes cheapened the overall beauty of the production.
That being said, the musical numbers don’t take away from this beautiful and intriguing performance. A mention to set and lighting designer Nick Fry. The simplicity of an old fashioned house worked beautifully for the beginning of the show and the final epic moments were very divine, it’s an aesthetic dream. The lighting seeping through the long glass windows set the tone for the scenes and were evocative when paired with the musical performances. Those final moments of the play are ones that will stick with you after you leave the audience. Everything works in harmony and the it’s scale feels like something plucked straight from a Hollywood film.
Pinocchio is a thoroughly enjoyable show to watch and it’s clear that all the creatives involved in this show will be doing big things in future. Make sure you check it out at the Sydney fringe festival, it’s only on until September 29.