Writer: Oscar Wilde
Director: Iain Johnstone
Reviewer: Edie R
Wee Stories’ The Selfish Giant is in Edinburgh in the run-up to Christmas, and it’s guaranteed to be the most charming show you’ve seen all year. At only an hour in length it’s by no means a giant play; but every one of those 60 minutes is packed with beauty and good-humoured spontaneity which are a joy to watch.
The plot is a re-imagining of Oscar Wilde’s classic fairy tale of the curmudgeonly giant who walls in his garden to keep the children from playing in it, then learns that sharing it with them is much more fulfilling. Wee Stories Theatre have given the giant a Tam o’ Shanter and a West Coast accent, and replaced the children with animals, played, from our seats, by the audience (hands up above our ears for the rabbits, rrrribbet-ing for the frogs, and for the squirrels…well, you’ll have to go along and see).
The cast, like the play, is small but perfectly formed. Iain Johnstone in the title rôle has the audience in the palm of his giant’s hand, while two versatile backing dancers, choreographed by Jane Howie, sing, ceilidh and ballet-leap their way through the rôles of Spring, the North Wind, Jack Frost and the Queen of the Snow, as well as putting in a double-act as a prissy golden eagle in spectacular feathered spectacles.
Many such quirky, gorgeous details of costumes and props make the whole production glow. Spring dances on with a basket of daffodils, which miraculously jump upright when she tosses them on the stage. There’s a clever sleight of hand as Jack Frost paints the giant’s garden with icicles, chilling the roses and peeling a sheet of ice over the pond. When the giant decides to keep out the animals, the cardboard façade of his castle neatly unpacks and slides outwards to form the wall. When springtime returns to everywhere but the walled-in garden, the front two rows of the audience are given headbands with poppies and daisies growing from them, so that spectators further back are looking at the barren garden through a belt of flowers. And a lovely optical illusion at the end of the story leaves us with the comforting idea that though the giant may have popped his clogs (at a ripe old age, of course), he isn’t quite gone.
The Selfish Giant is the perfect early Christmas present, a gem that will appeal to adults and children alike. Treat yourself.
Runs until 24thDecember