Theatre & Dance
The Blue Fairy and Pinocchio
Matthew Hart stars as Pinocchio in Will Tuckett's acclaimed family production for the Royal Opera House, which can been seen during its tour of the UK at the Norwich Theatre Royal from 18-21 January, 2006.
The Royal Opera House makes its debut in Norfolk this January by presenting Pinocchio at the Norwich Theatre Royal.
Created by director and choreographer Will Tuckett, this production captures all of the darkness and delight of an enchanting tale, which tells the story of Geppetto, the poor carpenter who carves a magical puppet without strings.
The role of Pinocchio is played by dancer Matthew Hart, who is well known to Norwich's dance fans having performed in the city with both the Rambert Dance Company and George Piper Dances.
What kind of show is it?
Hart admits that describing Pinocchio isn't the easiest thing to do.
"It's not an opera, it's not a dance piece, it's not a ballet, it's not a play – but it has elements of all of those things. It's full of lots of different art mediums that are juggled together for this bizarre show to be produced," he said.
An accomplished dancer in both contemporary and ballet, as Hart expands his acting portfolio, he finds a character role like Pinocchio a comfortable place to be.
"They seem to be the roles that I get... and I enjoy doing them – even when I was dancing in the Royal Ballet I was given Puck in a Midsummer’s Night Dream, or a jester in Cinderella," he said.
"I suppose I've always been a character dancer. Part of me leaving the Royal Ballet and going to Rambert was because I wanted to do serious dance as well - but I seem to have come full circle and back to those vibrant character roles.
"I don't want to be pigeon-holed. I am a pure dancer as well, so I wouldn't want to only be remembered as animals and puppets, but I do have an extrovert personality on the stage and I love to act – which I think it why I get chosen to do these things," he added.
Trying something new
According to Hart, Pinocchio's mix of opera, dance and theatre is a key fact in getting new audiences to enjoy theatrical genres they might not have tried before.
"There's a very strong drama element to the production as well as dance, so it brings people in without scaring them off," he said.
Matthew Hart as Pinocchio
"A lot of people who see pure dance for the first time just don't get it, or it's just so different they don't understand it – but if you can get them to see Pinocchio or Edward Scissorhands [Matthew Bourne's latest production] they might go and see a contemporary dance company, something more serious I suppose.
"But we shouldn't underestimate the audience either.
"It's one thing to encourage them to come in, but I don't think you should let down the standard of our art-form just to try and get people in.
"I think we should get them in and say 'look, this is what we do' and help them understand it," he added.
After more than 15 years carving a name for himself in the world of dance, Matthew Hart is now extending his portfolio as an actor and singer - but it isn't easy.
"Before now I've never had to do auditions. I went straight from school to the Royal Ballet. I was asked to join George Piper and most of the work I've done in dance I've been asked to do on reputation.
"The last two years have been tough. I'm constantly being put up for things in TV, film and musical theatre. Constantly auditioning for things and then constantly being turned down - that's quite difficult.
"I think it's going to take a while for me to get the experience that I need. Pinocchio is very much a cross-over work, to act, to speak, to sing.
Doing things like Mrs Henderson Presents and another film I did last year for BBC Four - slowly these bits of experience will go to making me seem more employable," he added.
Mrs Henderson Presents
Matthew Hart got his major film break in 2005 with the opportunity to perform in Mrs Henderson Presents starring Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins and Will Young.
Playing the character of Frank Lawson was both a valuable learning experience and a dream come true.
"It was wonderful to do a film and do one that was set in the '30s and '40s as the attention to detail was amazing," he said.
"The difficult thing I'd say was the hanging around, which I'm just not used to in the dance world – and the hardest thing of all was that we did loads of dance numbers, which were all cut from the film – so it was quite difficult to watch.
"We did six or eight proper musical theatre numbers which were specially choreographed, the costumes designed and we rehearsed them until they were perfect. They were all filmed and then they were cut.
"I do think it’s a shame as when I got the part in the film I thought 'this is wonderful' as I've always loved the old Hollywood film with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
"I thought 'thank God, now in the 21st century I get to be in film like those and sing and dance like I always wanted too'.
"I had a chance to do that – and it was all cut – but that's the film industry. It was quite a big lesson to learn. They did promise they would included the numbers in the DVD," he added.
Matthew Hart stars as Pinocchio alongside Luke Heydon as Gepetto, Will Kemp as Stromboli and Cathy Marston as the Blue Fairy.
Pinocchio runs at the Norwich Theatre Royal from Wednesday 18 - Saturday 21 January, 2006. For more details call the box office on 01603 630000.
last updated: 07/05/2008 at 12:52