‘The Making of Pinocchio’ // Brisbane Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse, Screen Queensland

‘The Making of Pinocchio’ was personal.

Warning: the following review may contain sexual references and adult themes.

What does it mean “to be real?”

Seeing the production “The Making of Pinocchio” at the Brisbane Powerhouse (or in my case the webcast version) as part of the Brisbane Festival was a chance to ponder this question, and an opportunity to experience an inventive and truly original hybrid of film and theatre that pushes the boundaries of storytelling.

The beloved tale of “Pinocchio”, the puppet’s longing to become a real boy, has been reimagined as a gender transition journey by Glasgow-based theatre makers Rosana Cade and Ivor MacAskill, who crafted a very clever two-hander that intertwines an autobiographical journey with the tale of Pinocchio’s quest.

Very originally set within a fictional film studio, the audience is granted an intimate behind-the-scenes look at Cade and MacAskill’s creative process and their relationship, all while pondering what it takes to express one’s authentic self. And just as Geppetto carved his wooden creation into life, “The Making of Pinocchio” offers an incredibly personal account of a journey that, like Pinocchio himself, takes on a life of its own.

Overall the show was a pleasant surprise for me. I was initially drawn in because I was curious about the subject matter, but it became evident within the first few minutes that both the narrative and the artistic technical production stand out in their own right too.

As performers and storytellers, Cade and MacAskill are engaging: captivating, honest yet perfectly polished, often quite funny (Cade’s comedic timing is impeccable), and ultimately… surprisingly relatable.

Technically the show is a stunner. The clever scenography by Tim Spooner works hand in hand with the original cinematography by Kirstin McMahon and Jo Hellier and really elevate this production, while lighting (Jo Palmer) and sound design (Yas Clarke) serve as silent orchestrators, guiding our emotions through the story’s highs and lows with subtlety and precision. The production has several particularly visually stunning pantomime-like scenes that have an innocent, fairytale quality that mirrors the familiar Disney narrative.

At other times though, some highly erotic episodes veer not only into the opposite of ‘Disney’, but into the extraordinary. Scenes involving sex with tables and donkeys took this reviewer into uncharted territory, offering an experimental experience that may leave some astonished and others… slightly… confused? That being said these scenes are not without their point or artistic merit, and one thing we can probably all agree on is that these salacious moments are audacious, pushing the boundaries of what’s typically seen on stage.

One slight criticism, while “The Making of Pinocchio” is overall a remarkable production, there are sequences that, at times, linger longer than one might expect, pushing at our patience with their relentlessness. However, for the most part the pace does work to deliver comic and artistic effects, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to forgive these moments.

In its audacity and complexity, “The Making of Pinocchio” blurs the line between the familiar and the taboo, creating a space for contemplation and reflection, and beckoning the audience to a place where honesty, creativity, and self-acceptance converge. A very interesting production from talented artists.

The Making of Pinocchio’ ran from 13-16 September 2023 at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the Brisbane Festival. For more information visit their website.

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