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‘Pinocchio’ by Teater Patrasket, Denmark and ‘Zooom’ by Patch Theatre, Australia

As Part of Harbourfront Centre’s JUNIOR – Toronto’s International Children’s Festival - May 20-22, 2023

Teater Patrasket Facebook page

Joe Szekeres

Magic and Whimsy filled the air in ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Zooom’. Quite enjoyable to hear the reactions of children to good theatre.

Judging from both interactive performances today with these young audience members and their families, they saw good theatre today. I agree. I was pleased to have been part of that experience and to hear the reaction from the children’s points of view.

Denmark’s Teater Patrasket’s production of ‘Pinocchio’: The programme billed this presentation as: “Carlo Collodi’s contemporary interpretation about the puppet who must learn to become human…and life lessons [he learns].”

Contemporary indeed! More bizarre at first glance. There’s a whisper of a dark fantasy akin to the setting and the players of the carnival in Ray Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. But that’s what makes this 60-minute travelling circus-like set even more intriguing to see what unfolds.

The audience enters to see a circus stage with the musical sound of a calliope playing as the audience enters. The calliope/organ is centre stage and will be played throughout the show.

Four performers dressed in bizarre circus garb enter wearing white pasty-looking makeup. As they begin to tell the story, they are having great fun in the introduction of who they are and the story they are about to tell us. An older-looking gentleman with a mustache and hunched shoulders steps forward. This is Geppetto, the maker of things in the town. There’s a hint of loneliness about him. He doesn’t have a lot of money.

He makes a son out of many things from his workshop.

And it’s not the Disney Pinocchio we already know.

There’s something ghoulish looking yet rather sweet about this young boy. One of his arms is shorter than the other. On one leg there is a foot and on the other is a wheel. His voice is childlike as he speaks.

Pinocchio wants to go to school. There’s a circus in town. The young boy ditches school to go to the circus. This is the first of four interactive moments with the audience and it’s a great deal of fun to watch how the actors incorporate responses to whether Pinocchio should return to school or go to the circus.

How would the actors show Pinocchio’s nose growing in telling his first lie? Simple manipulation but cleverly handled by the actors in placing one fake nose on top of the other. Delightful to watch.

One slight quibble. There were moments when I couldn’t hear the ensemble members. None of them wore microphones so one had to pay close attention to hear everything. Again, this was minor as it didn’t distract me fully.

Final Comments about ‘Pinocchio’ – A lovely telling of the story using puppetry and sound. Unique direction in taking a classic children’s tale and placing a new spin on it.

Australia’s Patch Theatre production of ‘Zooom’- Inspired by the children’s book ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’, a child (Tameka Lawlor) who’s supposed to be getting ready to go to sleep and turn the lights out does not comply. Instead, she goes on an imaginary adventure throughout the universe making sense of the world through art and takes the audience with her.

And again, it’s wonderful to watch ‘Zooom’ from an adult perspective and from hearing and seeing the young children’s reactions around me.

The pre-show setting is fun. As we enter, children (and adults) are asked to take anything imaginary dark out of their pockets or bags and place them into a hat. We are then given a light holder like one would have if ordering from ‘Panera Bread’ when your order is ready and the object flashes.

Michelle ‘Maddog’ Delaney’s set design is simple. A child’s bed with a lamp next to it. One overhead stage light focuses on the bed and the rest of the stage is in complete darkness.

Tameka then pulls out a book to read as she is supposed to be getting ready for bed. It is here where the amusement begins. She uses various objects to refract light prisms out of her book toward the audience.

There’s a unique light show going on behind her as well. Sometimes she draws in the darkness and, at other times, she will play with a blinking light and blow it all over the room.

I liked the significance of the title. That little blinking and all the lights ‘zooomed’ across the stage and into the house.

Final Comments on ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Zooom’ – Great fun. I enjoyed both shows immensely. They were reminders of why my lifelong fascination with the theatre has remained strong over the years. These young audience members present today are the audiences of the theatre in the future. Let's continue to provide quality theatre.

‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Zooom’ are pure joy. Lovely to feel like a kid again.’

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