As Pinocchio is a favourite childhood story, I’m well aware that this fairy tale is quite, well – disturbing – in places. And this imagined sequel to the original story was certainly faithful to that darker flavour. In ‘The Greatest Liar…’ we are introduced to an adult Pinocchio, a two-bit mentalist who has built a career in the theatre on his most infamous skill, the ability to deceive. But he is deeply disillusioned and, whilst threatening to end it all, begins to tell the story of how he came to be ‘The Greatest Liar in all the World’…
Describing themselves as a ‘Pandora’s Box of actors, clowns, designers, puppeteers and musicians’, Familia de la Noche bought all of these to bear in their performance, which was funny, surreal and well-paced throughout. It was quickly clear that ‘The Greatest Liar…’ would transcend the ‘typical family show’ by delivering darkly comic sketches that were genuinely enjoyable for adults, as well as children. As with other shows of this calibre, some of the themes were essentially quite complex, but were softened with a humorous and a dreamlike presentation, ensuring the performance remained accessible and appropriate for younger audience members.
Familia de la Noche are not exclusively a company of puppeteers and the extent of the animation was therefore limited. However, the use of puppetry was well considered, with shadow puppetry employed alongside the wooden Pinocchio puppet, who was bought to life bunraku-style by all the performers. The light and shadow displays had good visual impact, but may have benefited from an accompanying larger screen or similar device, as it was difficult to see the details, especially in a bigger theatre space.
Where ‘The Greatest Liar…’ was strongest for me was its clowning, which kept the performance vibrant, warm and accessible for all. In addition to being well written, each performer bought one or more well formed comic personalities to the stage, from a classic Pierrot-esque figure to more contemporary slap-stick characters, resulting in a performance that was abundant with good humour and absurdist moments. This provided both good foundation for the story, and a safety net to support flights into darker themes.
I look forward to seeing more work from Familia de la Noche, and will certainly keep an eye out for new shows, as deliciously dark fairy tales are a personal favourite, and ‘The Greatest Liar in all the World’ most certainly hit the spot.
I was fortunate enough to see the end of tour show of ‘The Greatest Liar in all the World’ at 1532 Performing Arts Centre – a new venue, located in central Bristol. Opened in September 2016, the centre houses a state-of-the-art Theatre which can seat up to 320 audience members, plus a dance studio, drama studio and recital hall. Further information about what’s on this season can be found on their website or by subscribing to their e-newsletter.