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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE SELFISH GIANT (article first published : 2004-12-10)

Running in the mornings at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, The Selfish Giant is Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company’s festive season production of a family dance story based on Oscar Wilde’s classic.

Originally adapted by Ashley Killar for the NAPAC Dance Company, it has been re-conceived and choreographed by David Gouldie and Quinton Ribbonaar.

The story deals with a cantankerous giant played by Cobus Vos who has to be commended on achieving an imposing character while balancing on those enormous shoes! The Giant has a beautiful garden filled with flowers – a well disciplined group of young ballet dancers – but he will not allow them to bloom so they cower in corners to avoid his anger.

Vigorously supported by his servant (nicely played by Quinton Ribbonaar), the Giant banishes from his garden all the children. These are enthusiastically played by a lively group of youngsters including members of Cato Manor Vibe!!, FFFDC’s highly successful outreach programme. Madame Snow (Angela Lardant), Frost (Thulebona Mzizi), Hail (Vusi Thabethe) and the North Wind (Ebrahim Medell) take over and reign supreme. Even the appearance of a beautiful bird (Louise Fraquet) fails to melt the Giant’s heart.

As the narration goes: Spring arrives but in the garden of the giant, it is still winter. A young child manages to reach the Giant’s soul, the wounds in his hands and feet indicating his true identity. As was the case with youngsters around me in the audience, I did feel it a bit illogical that the narration states that the child is standing beside the tree and walking round it, when the child actor is actually standing on a bench. A sawn-off tree trunk – or even a small platform - next to the tree would be a bit more believable.

The Sneddon is currently hosting Nunsense so The Selfish Giant takes place downstage behind a fairytale backcloth depicting a large castle. The problem with doing two shows like this is that the secondary production has to make certain compromises. The lights are set for the main production and space is restricted. For The Selfish Giant, this means that it is difficult to produce the kind of atmosphere seen in previous productions of this work and the introduction of Hail, Winter and Frost appear without the usual magical effects that could be created if they had the full stage space and lighting technology to themselves. The opening does rather take everyone by surprise. Perhaps more of a dramatic build-up might get the young audience members more in the mood.

The glorious voice of Drummond Marais provides the recorded narration – so if you feel in need of clear articulated speech, the Sneddon is the place to be this festive season. Nunsense (see separate review on the Music pages) is also faultless in this regard.

The Selfish Giant is charming – lovely costumes, graceful ballet dancers, a bit of scary stuff and a happy ending. It runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from December 9 to 30 at 11h00, with performances from Tuesdays to Saturdays (no shows on Monday or Sunday). R30 throughout (no concessions). Book at Computicket. – Caroline Smart




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