EVERYONE IS familiar with the Disney version of Pinocchio, the story of the little puppet boy whose nose grows longer when he tells lies and his singing side-kick Jiminy Cricket.
However the original Italian story by Carlo Collodi, on which that film is based, was a much darker, more sinister story and it is this original version that Galway’s Moonfish Theatre Company have returned to as the inspiration for their new play Tromluí Phinocchio (Pinocchio - A Nightmare ).
“In the original Jiminy Cricket gets squashed and killed at the beginning and only comes back as a ghost,” Moonfish’s Máiréad Ní Chróinín tells me, “and then it goes downhill from there. The story and our play is definitely not the Disney version.”
The inspiration to tackle the story came from a favourite book from Máiréad and her sister Ionia’s childhood - Eachtra Phinocchio, a beautifully illustrated edition of Collodi’s Pinnocchio tales translated into Irish by Pádraig Ó Buachalla, and edited by the girls’ father, NUI Galway professor of history Dáibhí Ó Cróinín. The pair were also keen to work as Gaeilge again.
“Our production of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, Namhaid don Phobal, got great feedback from people who were nervous about attending a show where Irish was used and from foreigners who wanted to hear the language spoken.
“We used surtitles for that show but we wanted to explore more how we could use Irish and English, without subtitles, and make them part of the show. There is bilingualism throughout the show and Morgan Cooke and Ionia perform a bilingual cabaret style romp song in the middle.
“Not everyone will be able to understand Irish but there will be captions like in silent movies explaining what is about to happen and the use of sound effects and visuals and movement will also help people understand what is going on.”
Another key factor is that Tromluí Phinocchio is aimed very much at teenagers.
“The original story speaks more to a teenage audience as he is constantly pushing boundaries and rebelling,” says Máiréad. “Cullodi’s story is also quite moralistic in that everything you do comes back at you and you have to grow up and be good. We wanted to move away from that but keep the fantastic images and talking cats and puppets. Our Pinocchio has attitude but the message is left up to the audience to figure out.
“We wanted the show to appeal to teenagers as well as adults because there is so little theatre made for the teenage audience. There is a big focus up to 12 and then once they hit secondary school the only theatre is that which is on the school curriculum. It’s functional. We wanted to create a piece of theatre that is just theatre. The things I liked in theatre when I was a teen was not just the play but were the sound effects, the visuals, and how it was put together.”
Tromluí Phinocchio will feature the eponymous hero travelling though various landscapes, enduring all kinds of up and downs, and having to survive encounters with a cat and fox who are out to trick him. All this will take place in front of a sparse set consisting of ladders and a screen. However it is the sound effects that will be used to create the atmosphere and feel of the locations Pinocchio finds himself in.
“We’re using all kinds of bits and bobs, things we’ve found, squeaky hinges, water, and crazy objects to make sound effects,” says Máiréad. “We’ll also be using loop pedals to simulate walking in the woods or by the sea. The set is pared down and will be suggestive. The magic will be created between the performer and the audience. You don’t need realism or big sets to create a woodland, you can suggest it through sound and lighting.”
The cast is Máiréad Ní Chróinín, Ionia Ní Chróinín, Grace Kiely, Morgan Cooke, and Zita Monaghan. The play is not suitable for those aged under 13.
Tromluí Phinocchio (Pinocchio - A Nightmare ) will be staged in the Nuns Island Theatre from Friday March 9 to Tuesday 13 at 8pm. There will be matinees on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at 2pm.
Tickets will be available on the door each night. To book tickets email moonfish
The play is part of Seachtain na Gaeilge which runs from Monday to March 17. See www.snag.ie