Children's Show Interview

Eve Leigh: Pinocchio

By | Published on Sunday 13 November 2022

Lots of children’s shows have been beginning long runs of late, for the season of festive family entertainment – stretching into January – is upon us.

One such show is ‘Pinocchio’ at the Unicorn Theatre, which is currently previewing and properly opens on 17 Nov. 

This very promising version of the popular tale has been adapted by Eve Leigh and is directed by Justin Audibert. I spoke to Eve to find out more, about the production and the playwright herself. 

CM: I think pretty much everyone’s probably heard of Pinocchio does your version of it stick to the original storyline?
EL: Not quite – in the original ending Pinocchio is hanged for being really naughty! We’ve definitely gone in a different direction – spoiler alert!

CM: What themes would you say are explored through the story?
EL: I would say, what we owe to each other and what it does to our relationships when we lie. Do we owe each other the truth? Why do we lie? As it says in the play, a lie can also be a wish.

CM: What attracted you to the idea of creating this adaptation? Are you fond of this story? 
EL: I am very fond of this story!

But I also think it’s important, in this ‘post-truth’ era, to have a think – adults and children together – about what lies are for, and why we are generally encouraged to tell the truth. And the lack of respect for others that often makes it easier to lie.

This feels particularly relevant in this season of intense, intergenerational family togetherness.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your approach to adapting something like this? How does it differ from writing something from an original idea? 
EL: I watched and read as many adaptations as I could, and had a think – together with Justin Audibert, the director – about what the essential parts of the story are and what’s a bit more changeable.

And then, we tried to turn up the fun on every element. The play’s in previews as we speak and it’s so joyous seeing the kids respond to a story that they half-know but have never seen like this!

CM: How do you make a play accessible for younger audiences?
EL: I think everyone responds to a good story. And what we’re primed to think of as a good story has to do with quests – going on a quest that the audience can connect with, but that is a bit magical and out-of-the-ordinary.

I was also able to let my juvenile sense of humour out more than I normally do with my work for adults, so that was fun!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about some of the other people involved in the production?
EL: Justin is a proper stage artist – he is really good at holding a line of energy for the audience. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about dramaturgy from him and the cast.

Peyvand Sadeghian, who plays Pinocchio, is also a complete delight – her charisma holds the whole theatre and that really gives the story space to resonate.

CM: Can we talk a bit about you now? How did you end up working as a writer? Was it what you always wanted to do? How did your career begin? 
EL: I started my career wanting to be a director and working as – maybe the worst ever??! – assistant stage manager.

In retrospect, I feel that it took me a while to be ready to expose the inside of my head in the way that writers do. But writing makes me really happy.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
EL: I think the number one highlight so far happened in September: I had two different plays opening two different theatres’ seasons in Germany in the same weekend.

‘Flaechenbrand’, which in English is called ‘Wildfire Road’, opened Theater Bonn’s season, and ‘Midnight Movie’, which was originally produced by the Royal Court and then selected for the Stueckemarkt of the Berlin Theatertreffen, opened Anhaltisches Theater Dessau.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
EL: I would like to make work that really matters to people, that keeps living in people’s heads after the show’s ended or the game is done. I just want to get better and better at doing that.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
EL: My next production is ‘Wildfire Road’, directed by Laura Keefe, which will be on at Sheffield Theatres in March. It’s about an aeroplane hijacking – you should come!

‘Pinocchio’ is on at The Unicorn Theatre until 31 Dec, see the venue website here for more information and to book.