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Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Smartest Giant delights Newbury

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The Smartest Giant in Town at The Corn Exchange from Friday, February 25, to Sunday, February 27. Review by ROBIN STRAPP

Firelight and Little Angel Theatre’s production of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Smartest Giant in Town was a delightful half-term family treat for the little ones.

This heartwarming story about friendship and helping others is told in a puppet-filled adventure, with music by Barb Jungr (a former favourite Greenham cabaret act).

The Smartest Giant in Town
The Smartest Giant in Town

George (Duane Gooden) is a huge, poor, scruffy Giant, who really wants to be a smart one. When he discovers a shop selling extra-size clothes, he decides to treat himself to a new outfit, including a new shirt, tie, trousers and shoes – and he looks very dapper.

Nix Wort and Mark Asaias were shopkeepers, as well as skilful puppeteers who breathed life into the various animal puppets created by Judith Hope, that George meets on his journey. The youngsters loved them.

First, there was the giraffe with a cold neck that George decides to give his tie to. It magically transforms into a scarf and the giraffe is exceedingly grateful.

A sailor goat and his boat were stranded when it lost its sail, but George’s shirt provided a replacement, as he clumsily drops it on to the ground and it changes into a more suitable size.

There is much repetition of this process, which reinforces the story-style appropriate to the age group and remained faithful to the book.

The mouse’s house dramatically catches fire, but George’s shoe provides alternative accommodation. The sly fox is provided with a new sleeping bag courtesy of George’s sock and the naughty dirty dog manages to escape the muddy hills with a bridge created from the giant’s belt.

The captivated youngsters were enthralled by each act of kindness and the cleverly-executed solutions.

Poor George was left cold, having given away all of his new clothes, and despondently returned to the shop to find his old garments.

There was a wonderful warmth and sense of fun as each animal was given a special song.

Samantha Lane’s clear direction and Kate Bunce’s imaginative design enhanced this joyful tale and the audience all enthusiastically joined in the rousing finale song. A charming production.

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