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The Smartest Giant in Town

The Smartest Giant in Town

George wishes he wasn't the scruffiest giant in town. So when he sees a new shop selling giant-sized clothes, he decides it’s time for a new look: smart trousers, smart shirt, stripy tie, shiny shoes. Now he’s the smartest giant in town . . . until he bumps into some animals who desperately need his help – and his clothes!

This heart-warming tale about friendship and helping those in need is brought to life in a musical, puppet-filled adventure, following on from Little Angel Theatre’s bestselling adaptations of Julia Donaldson’s picture books including The Singing Mermaid and The Everywhere Bear.

The Smartest Giant in Town is aimed at ages 3-8. There is nothing scary in the show – the giant is big but very friendly. The story is quite simple, but the show does use new words and song lyrics that are not from the book, so younger children may not follow everything.

Our review on The Smartest Giant in Town

The Smartest Giant in Town - The Lowry, Salford - Tuesday 21st February 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

When you hear that Fiery Light (Exciting the imaginations of children everywhere) and Little Angel Theatre (Fuelling the imagination through the magic and wonder of puppetry) are co-producing one of the award-winning Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books, then you sit up and pay attention, no matter what age you are.  The Smartest Giant In Town is the lucky book in question and as been delighting audiences up and down the country with its gloriously imaginative storytelling, leaving youngsters wide eyed with awe and much more eager to demonstrate kindness and sharing.  This beautiful world where humans, animals and giants co-exit with each other in utter harmony has whooshed into The Lowry just in time for half term, and I thoroughly recommend a visit with your mini-me.

George the giant is fed up with feeling scruffy in his gown and slippers.  He wants to dress to impress and so thinks his luck has come in when he spots a shop in town selling giant sized clothes.  Giants deserve make overs too after all!  Following the best shopping spree ever, George emerges full of glee dressed in his new clothes, making him feel dapper and like the smartest giant in town.  But as he is parading his new look, George comes across a few animals who desperately need his help.  What is a giant to do after all when a giraffe has a cold neck, but offer his tie?  And when some mice, a fox, and a dog are all next in line, George has to decide whether to extend the hand of friendship to them too, even if it means giving up his wonderful new wardrobe of clothes.  It’s not long before poor George is down to just his vest and pants.  He returns to the clothes shop hoping to purchase some more clothes, but it is closed.  He retrieves his old robe and slippers, and just as we think all the kindness and friendship he has shown has been in vain, the animals present George with a gift and title that money can’t buy, naming him the kindest giant in town.  A gorgeous story that gently teaches children about friendship, kindness, empathy, sharing, and generosity.

George the giant is played by Ashton Owen and even though he spends the whole show with a great big giant head covering his own, he somehow still manages to inject personality, warmth and connection with his audience.  They love him and spur him on from the off.  He performs with big articulated gestures to convey his mood and many children join in with him.  Heidi Goldsmith and James Keningale are the other actors and puppeteers who between them bring every other character to life, including the shop owners.  They change accents for each role, producing clearly defined characters and their delivery for children is friendly, bubbly and entirely approachable.  The whole show just felt like a big warm hug.  The atmosphere created by director Samantha Lane is gorgeous and I could have settled down in the cosy lighting, with these characters and their songs washing over me for longer than the 50 minutes the show lasted for.  However, it was the perfect length for the younger audience members, ensuring they stayed engaged right till the end.  Barb Jungr has written some wonderful songs for The Smartest Giant In Town that are superbly child friendly, catchy, and easy to learn and join in.  We were all squeaking along with the mice in their song and it felt wholesome to have everyone join in.

The show is truly brought to life by the stunning animal puppets, and they inject a truly innocent, youthful and fun energy into the play.  Judith Hope has done a remarkable job at igniting this young audience and beguiling them with these unique and quirky characters.  Scheffler’s famous illustrations are plucked right from page to stage and I’m thrilled to report that each gets its moment in the spotlight.  The giraffe sees a long neck attached from the waist of puppeteer James Keningale and is manipulated with ease.  The mice are tiny in comparison and are playfully impish.  The fox and dog are brought to life with humour and the detailed movements of limbs are delightful to watch. 

Kate Bunce’s set is delightfully uncomplicated and fuses ordinary objects with imagination to create endless possibilities and show children how fun and adventure can be found in everyday objects.  A bathmat transforms into a puddle for example.  Then, with a spritely swap around of the blocks, and the introduction of coloured swathes of materials, a lake is created, followed by a muddy, swampy bog.  All around are models of small houses to emphasise the giant’s stature, and towards the end of the play, these are lit up, creating a homely, family feel.

There is so much to love about this joyful production.  Stand out moments have to be the running joke of George ‘dropping’ items of clothing as he goes along, only to replace them with much larger ones to exaggerate his giant status even further before he hands them over to the animals. The repetition of the song as he gives his clothes away, and the accompanying actions were a lovely touch as children everywhere found themselves joining in the actions.  A funny moment was when George is changing into his new clothes, as diversion tactics were used to great effect and even provided the opportunity to learn a little French too!  There was even a little humour for adults as one puppeteer announced he was going to celebrate by turning the heating on!  I asked my mini guest what her favourite moment was, and she said all of it, so that sums up the connection this production made with its targeted audience.

The Smartest Giant In Town may be aimed at the approximate ages of 2 – 8, but it really is a delightful way for any age to spend 50 minutes.  Donaldson’s rhyming stories stay in your heads and in your hearts for a reason, and this production brilliantly brings it to life with a trademark sense of living in its own world and thriving there.  The morals of friendship, kindness and helping others are gently unfurled throughout, allowing them to resonate and make an impact without feeling forced.  So, stomp along to The Lowry, welcome new friendships, and tell George I said hi.    



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