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Ahead by a nose

Teatro Kismet's Pinocchio at Nottingham Playhouse is not cut out to be Disney-cute. Here's a world where you're different, you're made of wood - a type of taunt any bully's victim will recognise.

And here's a world of colour and fun, of laughs and chills all soaked in Mediterranean sun. Teatro Kismet come from Bari in southern Italy. There they play to all ages in the open air. There, say Nottingham Playhouse and Pinocchio director Martin Duncan and writer Peter Biddle, Kismet are greeted in the streets by their friends, the children they act to and work with.

Of course they improvise and Biddle's script is designed to spark off their creative ideas. "They combine child's play and disciplines, they're unique", he says. "Perhaps because they live, work, eat together".

Kismet is also a theatre of simplicity. No huge sets; actors create whatever scene is needed through their bodies and a whirl of simple props - balloons, balls, ribbons.

The most celebrated theatrical nose outside Cyrano de Bergerac was created around a hundred years ago by Carlo Collodi in a magazine serial. Plenty of then fashionable moral finger wagging was included. The Boots Company have now sponsored the Playhouse in a moral education programme, but the style is very different. Not to tell what to do but to encourage moral reflection. And no one's less finger-wagging than Kismet's lively international crew, even if their founder Carlo Formigon did come out of Brecht's Berliner Ensemble.

Then too there's Bari, a trading point whose markets let Kismet become spectators to rich examples of Brecht's theatre of the streets. "There are a lot of great characters in the market," they say.

Kismet are about inclusion and involvement and the fun that can only be released through technique and control.

Their work, like the best children's theatre, speaks to all ages. Actor Augusto Masiallo treasures a letter from a granny in Lille. "She said she was very happy to have taken her grandchild to see us because he had loved the show and so had she. Previously theatre had bored them. And she said it was stronger than on TV. On TV there's only one image. With us there was almost nothing on stage but there were as many images created for the audience as there were imaginations watching us".

Nottingham Playhouse to July 1. Tickets: 0115 941 9419. Sadler's Wells, London July 4-8 Tickets: 0171 248 8916. Further British dates in 1996.

TES2 JUNE 16 1995 The BT National Connections showcase runs from June 30 to July 5, with two performances a night. The groups whose work will be shown are Bangor Drama Club, Co Down, Lewisham Youth Theatre, London, Moral Support, Glasgow, Shelley High School, Huddersfield, Flies on the Wall, Gloucester, Harlow Community College, Crucible Youth Theatre, Sheffield, Cheltenham Everyman Youth Theatre, Swanmore Secondary School, Southampton, South Devon College, Torquay.

Tickets Pounds 8.50 and Pounds 6: 0171 928 2252.

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