25 November to 7 January 2017
Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
For me Christmas is about children and one of the things we love to do is take our children to The Dukes at Lancaster to see their Christmas production. There is always a lovely atmosphere and the use of The Round theatre makes the play more enchanting as you are very close to the stage and the cast involve the audience where possible. We took two very excited children to see Pinocchio and yet again were presented with a fantastic production that is crammed full of laughter, music, and songs and as we now expect, has The Duke’s unique twist on a traditional tale. This year Pinocchio has been skilfully adapted for the stage by Christopher William Hill.
Pinocchio is basically good but easily led and does has a tendency to lie to try and get himself out of trouble. He is a bit of a rascal but his heart is in the right place and he is very loyal to Geppetto. One thing that we all know is that when Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose grows longer; I did wonder how The Dukes would do this, I’ll not spoil it but it was very well done and the children loved it!
At the start of the production Pinocchio is being expertly carved from wood by Geppetto (Russell Richardson) and initially we see him come to life as a wooden puppet that is skilfully animated by the cast and seems almost lifelike. Lucas Button then takes over and brings Pinocchio to life without losing any of the mannerisms of the marionette. He portrayed Pinocchio expertly and was loved by the audience. Lucas attended The Dukes Youth Theatre whilst growing up in Lancaster so it was nice to see him returning to his roots.
Russell Richardson was outstanding as both Geppetto and puppet master Ackerman. Whether playing the downtrodden Geppetto or showman Ackerman his presence filled the stage and enthralled the audience.
Ben Tolley and Josie Cerise were a great double act playing a number of roles and adding lots of humour to the performance.
Ella Vale as Lena was fantastic, guiding Pinocchio and eventually reuniting him with Geppetto.
The cast of five seamlessly switch between characters; the layout of the theatre enables the cast to enter the stage from all four corners which means no one in the audience misses out on any of the action. The gallery area is also utilised which adds height and realism to the performance.
The lighting was well designed with the stars and fireflies especially effective which my children particularly enjoyed.
There were plenty of children in the audience and the smiles on their faces at the end of the performance were the ultimate indication of how good the show was.
Anybody looking for something different to do with the children this Christmas should really make a visit to The Dukes to see Pinocchio which is on until the 7th January.
Tickets cost from £11 to £19.
Williamson Park, Lancaster, Lancashire, LA1 3DZ | 01524 598500