Pinocchio (WA Ballet, His Majesty’s Theatre, 2012)

The story reads like something from an acid trip: Geppetto carves a puppet, Pinocchio, which a fairy appears to give life to. Pinocchio tries to crush a singing cricket, then pays a cat and a fox with a book to get into a stage show. A puppet-master gets mad, but then gives him coins.

To get his coins, the cat and the fox attack Pinocchio, who hides the coins in his mouth. Pinocchio gets hung, but is only injured. When he recovers, the cat and the fox steal his coins while he dreams about Geppetto drowning.

For some reason, he wakes up,  travels to Play Land, turns into an abused donkey, is thrown into the sea, becomes a puppet again, gets swallowed by a shark, reunites with Geppetto inside (hey, what do you know?) turns back into a real boy and escapes with Geppetto.

The WA Ballet does a mind-bendingly contemporary version of this outrageous tale, which by all accounts more closely resembles the original book by Carlos Collodi, written in France in the 1800s.

Those crazy French.

The staging is breath-takingly beautiful, the costumes fabulous, and the story-telling done with a touching humour and whimsy, though it is undeniably dark and definitely creepy.

The show uses not only traditional ballet to tell the story, but also operatic singing, contemporary dance, limited dialogue and puppetry. In fact it is the only ballet I have ever seen that does any of this.

The staging of the scene after the shark swallows Pinocchio is particularly spectacular, but my favourite moment was an achingly sad solo dance by Geppetto as he drowns in flickering blue light, with a gentle, lovely accompaniment by the WA Symphony Orchestra (WASO).

I must say at this point that WASO did a highly original, memorable job at the music.

This is much more geared towards theatre lovers who are sceptical or lukewarm about ballet than towards die-hard traditional ballet fans.

But for those out there who fit that description, I urge you to hie to His Majesty’s before the season closes… tomorrow (sorry).

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