It was the introduction of spice-obsessed criminal mastermind-cum-master of ceremonies ‘El Tabasco’ that the audience at the King’s Head Theatre realised that this ‘Pinocchio’ would depart ever so slightly from the plot of Carlo Collodi’s late nineteenth-century fairy tale.
Charles Court Opera’s rollicking, festive panto ticks all the right boxes, filled with shambolic fun, bawdy humour and rousing musical numbers.
The bad jokes – and there are plenty of them – are garnished with satisfyingly self-reflexive cowbell shots that edge the audience’s knowing groans into full blown laughter. The feel-good narrative is punctuated with sing-along pop favourites from Queen to Britney Spears.
John Savournin shone as El Tabasco, the villain the audience loved to hate, and was the focus for much of the night’s humour. From ribbing everyone’s least favourite chain pub, to imploring the audience to follow the show on Grindr, ‘Pinocchio’ is full of local colour and scattered with pleasing pop culture references.
In a performance staged by the Charles Court Opera at the King’s Head Theatre, it’s no coincidence that the leading villain of piece bears a striking resemblance to a certain beheaded monarch of the late seventeenth-century. And it’s that working-on-two-levels humour that made ‘Pinocchio’ so enjoyable: saccharine pop tunes, Trump-bashing and willy jokes folded in with cheeky political satire and civil war references. If you want to have your guilty panto pleasure cake and eat it, don’t turn your nose up at this.