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The Smartest Giant in Town – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Ruth Gerrard

Writers: Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler

Adaptor: Barb Jungr and Samantha Lane,

Music and Lyrics: Barb Jungr

Director: Samantha Lane

A grey February half-term is vastly improved by a visit to the ever-endearing world of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The timeless quality of the work these two produce means that this production of a book published 21 years ago feels as fresh now as it did then. As with any purchase of these books for a child, this production is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of children, and accompanying adults too.

The story is a simple one, a giant living in a town wishes to improve his appearance and buys some new clothes to help him achieve his goal. On his way home from said shop, he encounters a number of other people who need assistance and he endeavours to help them in any way that he can – even though it has an impact on him. Through each of selfless kindness he shows, the audience come to learn that George the giant, has a heart of gold.

Jungr’s compositions help to keep to young audience engaged and do help move the story along. The closing number is particularly effective and enjoyable. Simple rhythms allow even the youngest audience members to clap along with musical integrity. Kate Bunce’s set design is simplistic yet effective. Heidi Goldsmith and James Keningale who are the puppeteers and shop assistants, use the moveable hillsides to full effect, allowing what could be quite a stagnant staging to flow and give the illusion of the giant moving through the town and surrounding areas. Judith Hope’s puppet designs are very true to Scheffler’s original sketches and are expertly wielded by Keningdate and Goldsmith. Goldsmith in particular uses a variety of accents to help the audience distinguish one puppet character from another.

The repetitive nature of the dialogue and each interaction between George and the puppets again closely replicates the original book meaning children can identify with it and become absorbed by the story as the familiarity and rhythmic pattern is one of the features of these texts that makes them so successful. Little Angel theatre’s adherence to this means the production has the same quality to it as the original texts themselves. As a result, the youngest audience members are also being exposed to high-quality language, delivered in a clear and concise manner meaning they can access the meaning behind the story.

Slight of hand and clever use of the set result in the clothing items George uses to support the animals he helps, being of the ‘appropriate size for a giant and gives the adults in the room a chuckle. Older children may find this element a little obvious. My observant five year wanted to pass comment on how this was done quite loudly and needed reminding to not spoil it for others. Prospective audience members may wish to consider that this story appeals more to the younger end of the market and at times, my companion was a little restless as she is now showing preference for Donaldson’s longer, more complex stories. However, she certainly enjoyed the show and at 45 minutes in length, it would serve as a great introduction to live theatre for any child. Her overall opinion is that the wardrobe malfunction experienced by the giant is the funniest part (what a surprise) and that some of the longer set changes (albeit they are not that long and are necessary) are the least successful parts but it is safe to say that a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon was had by us both.

You don’t need to dress smartly to be smart – this is the moral of the story. Use of intelligence and kindness is far more important and messages such as this need to be sung loudly and frequently for all to hear; adults and children alike.

Runs until 26th February 2023

Fantastic Family Fun

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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