With its visually intoxicating ingredients of ballet, burlesque and baroque, Pinocchio: A Fantasy of Pleasures is a rich feast for the eyes – even if it feels as though part of the picture has yet to be painted.
Taking the classic children’s tale and clothing it in faded finery and carnival masks, Company XIV’s vision is unique. Like the members of a carnival freakshow putting on a performance for their own entertainment, they carve their own singular version of the puppet’s adventures: one where the temptations and sensuality of Pleasure Island are at the core.
Fusing dance and physical theatre in at times startling ways, the company’s Pinocchio is no wide-eyed innocent. Here, with appropriately wooden and jerky movements well portrayed by the lead performer, this puppet snuffs out his conscience as soon as he encounters it and jerks headlong into the debauchery without a second glance.
When the production gels, the piece is a sumptuous and guilty pleasure. At other times, such as when the ringmaster-like narrator is driving some of the action in a dark rock style, the tableaux on stage lose some of their impact, although fortunately another scene of orgiastic excess soon replaces any lull in proceedings.
There is little in the way of set to speak of, although inventive use of ropes and silks to represent puppet strings create striking shapes and opportunities for interesting choreography. Had this production taken place amidst scenery to match the costumes and direction to match its vision, this baroque fantasy would have seemed more decadent, more deliciously deviant – and perhaps a little more complete.
Pinocchio: A Fantasy of Pleasures runs from 8-28 Aug at 19:00 at New Town Theatre. More details here.