Back for the 2023 Christmas season, this Julia Donaldson classic is set to be a sell out. Read on for a London family’s The Smartest Giant in Town London Theatre Review. Disclosure: Affiliate links included. If this review is helpful please consider using these link at no extra cost to yourself.
Last week I had the pleasure of an invitation to watch ‘The Smartest Giant in Town’ in London’s West End. With all four children and on a busy December Weekend we braved the tube and a seismic Leicester Sq before darting round the backstreets to the iconic St Martin’s theatre. Usually home to ‘The Mousetrap’ (currently on loan to Broadway) St Martin’s is a true West End Theatre nestled down Seven Dials. We love a good Julia Donaldson book and were excited to see how the master puppeteers of Little Angel Theatre together with Fierylight productions would reimagine this story for the stage.
What’s it about?
In a town where Giants are commonplace, a new shop selling giant-sized clothes has opened up. George the woefully simple, scruffy Giant decides to smarten himself up with a new wardrobe. Played by Ashton Owen, the Giant is essentially depicted by a tall actor wearing a huge character head. Standing head and and shoulders above the other human characters and with the help of the power of perception – a set comprising miniature houses and a landscape of knee high hills – George is a convincing (if a little creepy) giant figure onstage.
Surrounded by French (mais bien sur!) stylists gathered to dress him, the gentle giant forsakes his tired old gown and sandals for a splurge of smartness – a stripy tie, diamond socks, smart shirt and smart trousers as well as pristine new shiny shoes and belt.
The Kindest Giant
But alas, as fans of the bestselling book will know, George’s time as the Smartest giant in town doesn’t last for long. Bit by bit his new look is dismantled as George gives away his new garments to help the various animals that he encounters on his way home. A cold giraffe with an exposed neck, a family of mice who have lost their house and so on. In no time he is back where he started – the scruffiest giant …albeit with the kindest heart.
A modern classic with a moral lesson
This show may not be billed as a specifically festive show. There is no snow, no Christmas tree and certainly no appearance form Santa but this heart-warming tale of Kindness is poignantly welcome at this time of year. A great reminder for young audiences about sharing and showing kindness to those less fortunate in a season heavy with materialism.
Little Angel theatre’s three person cast do an exceptional job interchanging both roles and scenery with unflinching ease. The production has a real sense of tongue in cheek and a leaning in to pantomimic ploys of distraction which will appeal to parents and children alike.
Who is it for?
All three of my boys ( aged 6,5 and 4) were delighted by this show and even my 7 month old babe in arms was awake and wide eyed for most of it. I would suggest ‘The Smartest Giant in town’ is best suited to ages 3-6 . Expect lots of song and a sprinkling of audience participation on this puppet-filled adventure.
And the Venue?
I absolutely love St Martins Theatre. It is proper West End theatre with red velvet seats and reminders not to lean over the balcony, designed before health and safety was a consideration! The theatre staff were well prepared for their family audience with booster seats and a well managed buggy park was available.
This show would make a lovely soujourn from a the hustle and bustle of a London day trip. Cosy up for three-quarters of an hour of wholesome entertainment before soaking up the Christmas /New Year magic outside. The Smartest Giant in town is showing from 2nd Dec – 7th Jan 2024.
Looking for more stage adaptations of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler best-loved picture books? Read Here
Cast Seen: Ashton Owen, Heidi Goldsmith, James Keningale
Director: Samantha Lane
Composer/Lyricist : Barb Jungr (The Singing Mermaid / The Pixie and The Pudding)
Lighting Design:Sherry Coenen
Set and Costume Design: Kate Bunce
Puppet Design: Judith Hope
Production Manager: Nik Ryal