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The Selfish Giant review

Wrongsemble are renowned innovators of child-friendly theatre and their latest production, aimed at 3 to 7-year-olds and their families, takes a giant step in exploring topical themes through a contemporary fairytale landscape.

Based on the children’s story by Oscar Wilde, The Selfish Giant transports us to a small town which seems to be under threat from a big problem.

Behind a huge metal fence, there’s a miserable giant – apparently the cause of the town’s never-ending winter. We join a curious child as she breaks past the barrier and encounters what so many people seem to fear…

Nathan Richard Smith and Hannah Hobley in The Selfish Giant. Credit: Antony Jones.
Nathan Richard Smith and Hannah Hobley in The Selfish Giant. Credit: Antony Jones.

Director/Writer Elvi Piper presents a contemporary reworking of a classic tale, bringing the charm and warmth of the original story into the present day with regional voices and a retro-cool landscape designed by Antony Jones. It’s a gentle, enchanting tale which combines the wandering fantasy of The Wizard of Oz with the familial warmth of Roald Dahl’s BFG.

Today, young people are surrounded by media hype and televised hectoring on primetime talent shows. The Selfish Giant gently brings this into focus in a comedic study of blame culture, demonstrated through a frenzied and funny narration by a heightened newscaster.

We’re led to believe that the selfish giant is a monster, but we soon discover another side to the man through the merciful eyes of a child. It’s a light morality tale, yet a prescient one which children will enjoy, understand and empathise with.

Hannah Hobley and Nathan Richard Smith hand over engaging performances through puppetry, comedy and a series of lilting guitar songs which explore the light and shade of life whilst drawing comparisons with the flux of the seasons. There’s a grandfatherly meeting of ages between the child and the giant; young values challenge old against the visuals of a blossoming tree, which is beautifully realised through lighting effects.

The Selfish Giant is a captivating, compact show full of big ideas, brought to stage with a creative flair which is sure to ignite the imagination of young minds. The play’s canny satire is also guaranteed to keep the folks in line too. It’s a perfect pre-Christmas adventure and a reminder that next summer isn’t all that far away.

CastHannah Hobley, Nathan Richard Smith Director/Writer: Elvi Piper Designer: Antony Jones Theatre: Carriageworks Theatre Leeds Date: Monday 29th October 2018.


Catch up with The Selfish Giant on the final leg of the tour, which includes engagements at Farnham Maltings, Surrey and The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal. For more information visit

Samuel Payne
Samuel Payne
Reviewer of Theatre in the North, including releases of classic film and television.

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