Photo credit Simon Vail

The misadventures of Pinocchio – the boy made of wood who longs to be a real child – is running at the Old Fire Station this week, in an all new adaptation by Oxford Theatre Guild.

A theatrical treat of life-sized puppetry, physical theatre and original music played onstage by OTG’s company band, it aims to draw a largely teen audience.

“Older children, teenagers and adults will find it intriguing, entertaining – and just a little bit scary,” OTG’s Joanna Matthews promises us, “so as the nights draw in, this is family entertainment with a dark twist.”

“Will Pinocchio grow to understand fully what it is to be human? Will the wooden puppet earn his place in his father’s heart as a real little boy? You will have to go to Oxford’s Old Fire Station to find out”

Pinocchio is a story we all think we know, the tale of kind-hearted but poor Geppetto the woodcarver who, in order to change his lonely life, carves a puppet and calls him Pinocchio. As Geppetto says in this play: “Sometimes when you carve something with your hands, magic happens.”

But this is a modern adaptation, so the company have added some dark twists of their own.

As Alice Evans, who has adapted the play from the original Carol Collidi novel, says: “Pinocchio has a huge trust in everyone he meets, even the school bullies, who trick him into playing truant, and the thieves that lead him to pretty dark places. As a parent myself I find it so sad that he lacks the skills to look out for himself.”

As Collodi wrote his story in Victorian times when parents had strict rules about what constituted good behaviour nd how bad behaviour should be punished, Alice muses: “Temptations for our children have changed, not just what they can find online but the whole way they communicate with each other.

“It’s so alien to parents, who want to look out for their kids, but are out-of-date”.

“As a secondary teacher Alice knows that while most teenagers will flourish, others can be left floundering in a world their mums and dads don’t understand, and can’t help them negotiate,” Joanna adds.

She hopes this version of Pinocchio succeeds in asking what are teenagers are experiencing growing up in a modern world.  

If this all sounds a bit heavy, Alice adds: “OTG’s Pinocchio is a fast-paced story with a lot of uplifting elements too.

“Alongside live music the staging is enhanced with a series of fantastic projections.”

Joanna adds: “This production is certainly a far cry from the Disney movie. It is also very much, ‘Made in Oxfordshire’ from the production team to the music.”

Jon Heffernan, one half of the Oxfordshire folk duo The Kirals has composed an original score, and the company of nine local actors are supported on stage by three multi-instrumentalists, including accordionist Lisa Harker. The other half of The Kirals.

Ally Barker, has designed all the costumes (and made most of them) and the final member of the team is puppet maker and operator Jacqui Lewis – in whose Cumnor garden the company have been rehearsing on the multi-level set. “It’s got a bit cold to do that now!” Alice laughs, “so we are looking forward to being on stage.”

Alice, Jacqui and Ally

Which leaves the questions – will Pinocchio grow to understand, fully, what it is to be human? Will the wooden puppet earn his place in his father’s heart as a real little boy?

You will have to go to the Old Fire Station Theatre next week to find out.

Age guidance 10+  

Pinocchio, Old Fire Station theatre, November 4 -9.


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