The children were wide-eyed in wonder the second they stepped through the door to the tiny Derby Theatre Studio as in front of them was a set so enchanting and imaginative they were instantly transported to another era.
It was simple yet somehow complex – like the pictures in a storybook where you see something new every time you take a peek.
The ingenious design took us back to 19th century rural Italy and the ramshackle world of a travelling theatre company (which is indeed what they are) about to tell a wonderful story to a captivated audience.
That story was Pinocchio – this time revisited by the brilliant children’s author Michael Rosen, who all of us know best for the book Going On a Bear Hunt.
And the audience was an excited coach load of youngsters from Breadsall Hilltop Infant School.
Hiccup Theatre’s production, was directed by Derby Theatre’s own Sarah Brigham, who, it has to be said, has yet another triumph on her hands.
As soon as the seats were full the troupe of actors, already adopting their story-telling characters, mingled in the aisles explaining to the tiny children that they were going to be bringing alive the tale of the naughty but nice Italian puppet using the multitude of props and fascinating array of musical instruments behind them on the stage.
And then they got straight on with the action – a glorious mixture of puppetry, music, magic and mirth.
We were treated to tantalising glimpses inside the woodcarver’s cottage, the land of the toys, the depths of the ocean and even the belly of a whale.
Rosen’s adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s original story is both compelling and witty and the performances by the cast were outstanding. They are all talented musicians and actors and you could see that their aim was to engage their young audience and encourage them to enjoy storytelling and the theatre.
Ivan Stott, who writes all the songs, played Geppetto, Stephanie Butler was, among other characters, the charming Grasshopper Fairy; Ed Wren was the wily Fox and wry Candlewick and last but not least Edward Day was an enthusiastic Pinocchio.
I could have watched them and the delighted faces of the youngsters for much longer than the 50-minute show but it was the perfect length for the audience.
If you have young children, and you want to treat them to a magical and inspirational day, then just don’t miss this opportunity.
Pinocchio can be seen at The Studio Theatre at Derby Theatre until December 24. Go to http://www.derbytheatre.co.uk for ticket details.