Monday, 19 November 2012

Pinocchio and Cosmic

On Saturday, Eddie and I went to see 'Pinocchio' at the The Little Angel Puppet Theatre in Islington. I think I've mentioned before what a GREAT place this is; producing some of the most sophisticated children's shows I've seen. It's run on slightly military lines with strict age requirements for each show (shh- Eddie's friends who we went with were '6' for one day only- getting in to a Little Angel show is akin to being served your first pint in a pub) and child reserved seats to ensure that no child's view is blocked by an adult head.

The production was both weird and spectacular; especially the second half which genuinely thrilled me and made me cry. Eddie has been talking about it continuously since. The tickets were a total steal at £12 for the two of us. If you get a chance, do go yourself.

The theatre version of 'Pinocchio' was closer to the original Collodi than Disney. Jimminy cricket fans (if such people can exist) should know that in the book, the annoying bug gets squished against a wall by Pinocchio very early on in the action and he didn't feature at all on stage. We have a heavily abridged and rewritten book version- the Usborne 'young reader'. It's still a strange and unsatisfactory tale. Like many children's 'classics' you spend much of it in a slight state of boggle: But there's no structure! And it doesn't make any sense! And it's all horrible!- whilst your children laugh and slap their thighs with happiness. Understanding it was written as a serial and before any other dedicated children's literature existed it makes more sense but still...

What do I know? Eddie thinks it's all great apparently.

I was struck afresh in the theatre by how suitable a morality tale this is for North London's Tiger Parents. Apparently any kind of fun AT ALL will cause you to be hung or turned into a donkey. It's not very pro learning through play. As for what a good dad must look like; poor Gepetto gives up his last coin for an education for his child and must search to the ends of the earth and the bottom of the ocean for his missing son. It's all love tied up with duty and hard work and self discipline. Very tigery.

For a more nuanced take on father and son relations and running away and an appreciation of just how far children's literature has come THANK GOD, you can't do better than read Frank Cottrell Boyce's 'Cosmic'.

On the side of this blog when I started it, I wrote about how I was looking forward to discovering new writers with my children and boy have we hit the jackpot here. Obviously he has been garnered with awards over the last few years, so for many children's literature enthusiasts this is old hat but me and Bill are just discovering him. I'm reading 'Cosmic' aloud to him at the moment and it's my best evening treat: Funny and profound with a cracking adventure at its heart; we're glued. And a rather better analysis of what it means to be a real dad and a real son than 'Pinocchio'. Liam gets lost in space on the rocket 'Infinite Possibility:

'I was still looking back towards the massive empty universe. But I was talking to my dad and suddenly everything was different. My dad's voice was real. The stars were just...decoration.
"Are you OK? Because if you're not, I'll come and pick you up."
"I'm OK. Anyway it's a bit far."
"Doesn't matter how far it is. I'm your dad. if you want me to pick you up, just say so."'

If only Gepetto had had a sat phone and a taxi.
Lessons for dads
'Cosmic' by Frank Cottrell Boyce, pub.Macmillan isbn 978-0-330-44086-8
'Pinocchio' by Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Mauro Evangelista, pub. Usborne isbn 978-0-7460-6332-3


  1. I commented a few days ago but it doesn't seem to have appeared! The gist of my comment was that I have always found Pinocchio a bit weird and creepy, especially the fox and the cat. But we have a CD of it in the car and the kids ask for it all the time. So what do parents know.

    'Cosmic' sounds great - will put it on my list. Have you read 'Millions' as well? Marvellous.

    And the Little Angel is one of our favourite places too (despite the slightly scary age rules!)

  2. Hi Lucy- so sorry my blog rudely disappeared your first comment. mysterious.

    It IS completely weird and creepy- which apparently is exactly what kids like....get yours down to the Little Angel again pronto!

    Not read Millions yet- but am really looking forward to working through all of FCB back catalogue.

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