Cardiff Castle, Mon 2 Aug
Cardiff Castle Events is doing all it can to bring live music and theatre back to the capital this summer, and Black RAT Productions opened proceedings with four performances of Pinocchio between this opening show and their final curtain on Fri 6 Aug.
The fantastic weather and beautiful setting put the socially distanced audience at ease as they settled into folding chairs labelled with QR codes for food and bar ordering. But the ominous cavern mouth of the stage, all black save for the largely ineffective lights blinking against the midday sun, seemed to swallow up the small, and only piece of staging – two characters from atop the castle’s famous animal wall, brilliantly used later as puppets.
Four performers took to the stage in stuffy uniforms that set them as event staff, giving a brief history of the castle, before it gradually dawned on all that this was the beginning of the production and the hosts, very cleverly, became a part of the show proper.
Millie Rose Davies was very good as the little wooden boy, with her casting and the light script giving a very pantomime-like feel to this family-friendly musical. Nathan Jones is the writer of the original musical material, which I wished there had been more of. After a confusing opening number that tried to tell too much backstory too quickly, the remaining four songs were the true standout moments.
Fox and Cat’s Life Upon The Stage My Boy was something straight out of the Sherman brothers songbook, and took the audience through a middle medley of musical theatre hits that got all the parents chuckling. Similarly, Welcome To Wales was a greatest hits of Welsh folk and popular classics, including a speedy rendition of the anthem, that got the adults singing along.
What was missing was an early piece to truly engage the primarily young audience. The script also appeared to have lots of moments worked in where the much-promised interactive, audience participation elements could have been – but no room was given for those in this first, perhaps tentative performance.
The cast worked extremely hard and Davies’ voice rang out clear and true in delivering both dialogue and song. Perhaps on a real stage, in a darkened auditorium, more of the magic of this story would have come across. But there was none of the inventiveness of theatre, or pantomime, in this production that was, nevertheless, fun and well delivered by a strong cast.
Pinocchio was on at Cardiff Castle as part of the Live Under The Stars programme of events. Info: here
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES
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