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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Pinocchio! The Panto

University of Bristol's Pantomime Society

Genre: Children's Theatre, Family

Venue: thespace @ the Mile


Low Down

With a twist – Pinocchio wants to be a log – this is pretty much a straight adaptation of Pinocchio going to school, getting waylaid and then into all sorts of mischief before helping his father to escape the whale and for Pinocchio to get his wish granted.


If this had been a game of football it would have been described as a game of two halves. In the first half we struggled to get going and at times it was quite laborious. By the second half we had forgotten all about the first and its stuttering beginning and were now in full panto mode. The second half was not without its issues but there was certainly much more about it in terms of both enthusiasm and energy.

The issue is down to direction.

Up until the entrance of Jonathon Foxtrot, it’s far too loose. People are making their way across the stage without much by way of patterns. At times, it looks as though actors are looking to each other to work out what they are supposed to be doing. In pantomime that is fatal.

Doing panto in the home of Stanley Baxter, Jimmy Logan, Walter Carr, Rikki Fulton, Alan Stewart – the list is almost endless – is bold. Panto is seen as an art form here, and people will specialise in doing it as a career. It requires guts, confidence, and ability to sell everything. And if you are setting things up by establishing what should be done in a panto as an audience like booing the baddy, it’s behind you etc.  – look as though you have rehearsed it – don’t depend on winging it. You are taking your audience on a massive ride of fantasy and if you have less confidence in the material than your audience the relationship falters. Here, Mr. Fox bestrode the stage and held positions, nodded, and winked at his crowd, made jokes at their and his own expense and was loud enough to be heard and bold enough to lock out anyone else onstage.

Once he arrived others began to take up that spirit and it began to really motor. That’s not to say that others were not his equal, far from it, but it took someone to take the stage and show how stillness is a virtue to bring some form of discipline.

That was important in a script which makes a virtue out of as many puns as possible. Some hit, others began to grate. You need to believe in the material and there are plenty of decent set pieces of material to keep the thing going. I also liked the twist in the plot.  That worked really well.

Singing needs to be either done as a group or rethought – especially the first number. Another Brick in the Wall is an easy pick, but a really difficult sell in panto. When everyone was singing it was spot on and really good but there are a couple of voices in there who can’t hold the solos they have been given.

Technically, sort the nose and sort when it is on and when it is off – ultimately you might have to completely rethink it as it is unlikely to last the entire run. Otherwise, the rest of the costume and make up were real pluses.

By the end I really liked the company and felt they had put a huge amount into this for which they deserve huge credit. That includes the fact that, by the end the entire audience were all fully engaged – oh yes they were.