This Christmas season, the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts offers a fun-filled pantomime in the form of unusual fairy-tale choice, Pinocchio. Director James Weisz marries classic panto singing, dancing and silliness, with an array of spectacular circus performances, from fire-breathing to aerial acrobatics.

The cast consists largely of local youngsters who shine as an energetic ensemble of village children, eagerly attending humble Italian toy-maker Geppetto. It’s clear the children are having a phenomenal time and their enthusiasm radiates into their performance such that you can’t help but smile watching them. Their energy, along with some playful but polished choreography makes their “Toys” song one of the best scenes of the night.

The show is stolen however by the two young actresses portraying the eponymous puppet and his guide, Jiminy Cricket. Both strong singers and espousing that same terrific energy, the pair share excellent onstage chemistry. Carly Day’s Jiminy Cricket – or JC as he prefers to be known – is especially charming with his cockney accent and spritely physicality.

A few technical drawbacks let the talented performers down. The set is a little sparse for such a grandiose performance and some dialogue and singing is lost amidst microphone issues. The inevitable nose-growing scene that we had all been long-anticipating is however very funny, if in a silly, amateurish way.

The circus performers also demonstrate excellent talents, particularly on the aerial silks, which are well integrated within the central plot. The idea of including circus acts in a pantomime is utterly unfamiliar to me, but it really works. It particularly fits with panto’s demand to entertain both adult and younger audiences. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the show on the whole was probably more successful with the latter, given the music styles and comedy were generally targeted at children.

While definitely not as stylish and innovative as one might be used to at the Attenborough Centre, Pinocchio is exactly what one expects from a fun family pantomime with heaps of talent and festive spirit.

Image Credit: Miles Davies

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Georgia Grace

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