Pinocchio: Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

WORDS like "daft" and "bonkers" are bandied about by writer Nick Lane and director Paul Robinson in the press release for this show and there's certainly a feeling that the sillier the better in this Christmas show.

That's not a criticism. No one is looking for dreary, depressing drama on stage at this time of year although a message – love conquers all, family matters, being different isn't a crime, all that sort of thing – is more than welcome in these divisive times.

There are elements of all those in this, the first production at the Stephen Joseph for Robinson since becoming artistic director. It's a great start with a show that's bright, lively, inventive, surprising and above all jolly good fun for children and adults alike.

The always dependable Lane's adaptation of Carlo Collodi's story results in madcap mayhem as Pinocchio is duped by conmen (well, a fox and a cat), encounters the Blue Fairy ("call me Janet"), receives advice from a cricket and is swallowed by a sea monster. Add songs by Simon Slater, who comes from Scarborough, and you can't go wrong.

It's not pantomime although cunningly concealed within the production are all the elements of such seasonal shows including audience participation, a man dressed as a woman, and even a singalong song sheet at the end.

To say that the cast of four – well done Joseph Hardy, Elliott Rennie, Perola Congo and Anne-Marie Piazza – are hard-working is an understatement as they swap stories and characters with hardly a pause for breath.

* Runs until December 31. Box Office 01723-370541 or

Steve Pratt