Pleasure Island: ‘It’s right there in the name’. Venetian masks, raunchy dancers in basques (the boys too!), a boisterous MC in a leather biker jacket, gas masks and feathers, and a blue fairy caught by her wings… Sweet dreams, you bad, bad boys! Company XIV take Pinocchio’s trip to the debauched fantasyland where boys grow donkey ears as their starting point and central motif. Life’s a carousel, my friend, so come to the carousel. And this is some carousel – a merry-go-round of decadent delights.
Inspired by the films of Fellini (it shows!), American ensemble Company XIV bring a whole mix of forms to this sumptuous ‘Neo-Baroque’ production – Bob Fosse style jazz dance, modern ballet, classical opera, Commedia del’Arte, burlesque – while at the heart of the piece is the power of sexual desire and the pain of growing up.
The costumes are sumptuous and spectacular, the choreography lovely in an old-fashioned way (no bad thing), performed by an ensemble whose dance and performance skills are top-notch – and there’s even a live opera singer in the mix. She gives us arias and torch songs, whilst elsewhere harpsichords meet bump and grind blues or sentimental waltzes. There’s a strong element of kitsch and irony – a sequence to Elvis Presley’s ‘Wooden Heart’, for example. The play on puppetry and ‘the puppetesque’ is very cleverly done – the show-within-the-show (where Pinocchio becomes a marionette!) is done very nicely, and extended into a gorgeous sequence with Pinocchio tied up with red ribbons and pulled hither and thither. There’s a great visual aesthetic, and I enjoy the blue-red theme that is developed throughout, with the Blue Fairy (Pinocchio’s heart’s desire) in one corner; and little Pinocchio, all bleeding red heart, in the other.
Our showman MC holds the whole thing together with rhyming couplets and raucous songs, and it all romps along very merrily. A good night’s entertainment of a high level – naughty but nice!
This way to Toyland, everybody…