1st day in Bologna – Pinocchio

December 21, 2009

We had a fantastically smooth journey to Bologna – full of chatter & excitement for the trip ahead!  On arrival in Bologna we went straight to the theatre, but as it was locked (we didn’t know which bell to ring) we headed instead for the hotel before a tourist trip into town.  Bologna looked especially beautiful with the light snow (it got heavier later) and xmas lights.  Lizzie was a great guide.  We met with the Potsdam learners, Helga and Prof Hanny for dinner at a local pizzeria and felt we had arrived!



The next morning we had tickets for Pinocchio.  the production had been directed by Bruno, and involved 10 of the La Baracca actors performed on the main stage – a traditional proscenium auditorium with a v high stage.  The show was for 4 + but here were plenty of younger children in the audience.  Lizzie and i wondered how they would cope with the traditional and large sclae aspect.  The show started almost 30 mins late as one of the actors was stcuk in the snow and the show lasted 1 hour 20 mins – no interval – quite a challenge for 3 year olds.  We were amazed though, the children really accepted the conventions and were so attentive.  At times when their attention inevitably began to wander, the director had foreseen this and had created action scenes that took place within the auditorium. ie.

When Pinocchio swims in the sea trying to find Gapetti (who is on the boat).  Gapetti was on a chair with wheels complete with sail, and Pincoccio (played by Carlotta) was held on the shoulders of one of the actors, physiaclly swimming to try to reach him.  this all took place in and amongst the aisles of the auditorium, because the seating was on a rake – without stairs – thismade it possible!

Another lovely moment was when all the children get taken to ‘play land’. Huge ballons were thrown out into the audience – amking us all particpants in the ‘play land’ part of the story – although thankfully we didn’t all turn into donkeys!  The donkey transformation was particularly effective – where pinocchio and his friend are muzzled into a harness with nose muzzle – Lizzie and I both loved the design for this as you couldn’t see Carlotta’s eyes and this somehow made it more dehumanising and the transformation even more effective.  The design was beautiful.  A wooden cube that could become a house, circus, theatre, star, gallows, cart, etc – it was a fantastic example of a more abstract design used incredibly effectively.

the theatrical conventions too were v sophisticated.  Calotta sat on the side of the stage when playing the ‘voice fo the wood’ so that whenever Gapetti hit the wood she would say, ‘Ouch!’ – the children got this game immediately and understood that the wood had a voice even before it became pinocchio.  After the performacne we were welcomed on stage to have a chat with the cast and director.  Several things came out of the conversation:

* Bruno wanted to be true to the original story and keep the darker aspects of the story because its good for children to explore fear.  Some scenes were softened however, to allow for the younger chilkdren ie. having the fox and cat enter to tango music whilst dancing.

* Different ages (they perform to teenagers too) appreciate different things in the show as it is layered and allows different age groups to take away different things.

* The self conscious ‘playing’ of a character used to tell the story ie. the chorus arrive in black and their costume for different characters is added to this basic constume – is v similar to the way children ‘play’ and dress up’  for role play – it is their language and this helps them with accepting some quite spohisticated theatrical conventions.

* The show started with a gift being given – it was the wooden cube (smaller version) wrapped up. The gift was a story, ‘a story about what?’ ‘ a story about a King!?’ – ‘No!  A story about a piece of wood!’ – this is how the show began – and it was a beautiful set up – that the story was contained in the box and the box was then replicated large scale on stage – told by the actors!


It was so inspiring to see how such a large scale show could still give children such a rich theatrical experience.


  1. Hi, This sounds fascinating, would of loved to of been there! Was this play session to compliment to the Pinnochio performance?can you explain the context of these sessions? What a treat you both had, being there at christmas time and how was Helga?
    Love Rx

  2. hi rachel,
    sorry for lack of clarity. The play sessions were refering to ‘from here to there’ which we are developing as a show for 2 – 4 year olds. i just got interrupted in my write up of our R & D project by the trip to bologna – so they appear to be more linked than they actually are. the ‘play’ sessions were entirely held in yorkshire as part of our (TTH) exploration of the theme of the ‘bridge’ to make a new show for 2 – 4 year olds. Hope this makes sense to your question. Helga was great, a bit tired especially as she had small size meetings too – but a wonderful co-ordinator and inspiring as ever with v insightful questions.
    much love tash x

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