This year at the Old Rep Theatre, they have created a quintessential children’s Christmas production of Pinocchio to delight audiences of all ages over the festive period.
I spoke to Alec Fellows-Bennett, who previously starred in the Old Rep Theatre’s last two Christmas shows and is now stepping into directorial shoes to direct this year’s production of Pinocchio.
“I wanted to do Pinocchio at this theatre because if you get a child to draw a theatre, the chances are the Old Rep is what they’ll draw. It is your traditional Punch and Judy style theatre,” he says. “I really wanted to do a story that complimented that, and of course I started looking at it thinking it’s a puppet theatre so of course Pinocchio. Also
Taking what originally was a three hander version of Pinocchio for a small scale touring theatre company, Alec collaborated with writer Toby Halse to create a full blown Christmas musical. “I wanted to make it as bright, funny, colourful and moving as it can be, and it got bigger than we ever intended it to be,” he explains.
Having played Ratty in Wind in the Willows and the Mad Hatter in Alice, Alec really feels like he knows the Birmingham audiences. “I spent twenty weeks of my life and the last two years on that stage entertaining the audience,” he says. “So I really felt like I could tailor make it to the Birmingham audience.”
Alec goes back 25 years with the Old Rep Theatre having worked there when he was younger. “When I found out they had a producing company (BOA) back in, I really wanted to come back,” he says. “When Barry Jackson built the theatre he built it with the ethos of it being a rep company where young actors could come and learn their trade.”
Back in the 20s and 30s when students were just coming out of drama school and getting into the business, they were advised to go to Birmingham and get in the Rep company to learn their trade. Working with Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA), productions like Pinocchio allow the students to work alongside highly experienced professional actors.
Having created an imaginary world on stage, Pinocchio is the epitome of children’s theatre. “I am very aware that for a lot of kids, this will be the first time they’ve walked into a theatre,” he says. “I wanted to make something that could only be seen live, and that you have to sit in a room together as a social experience, it’s not something that can be seen on a film.”
“It is a story about family and what the notion of family is.”
“I didn’t want it to be something that was unattainable and completely removed from them. I created this imaginary world that felt accessible. I wanted them to feel like this show is like playing with toys, but on a completely different platform.”
Pinocchio is on at The Old Rep Theatre until the 30th of December.
Photo Credit – Anda Latsa