The Selfish Giant (3 stars)

The Selfish Giant

Photo: Peter Dibdin

Andy Cannon and Iain Johnstone's stage adaptation is a taut, family-friendly morality tale

It may sometimes feel as if Scotland only has one season, but this theatrical adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s short story, The Selfish Giant, reminds us that spring does actually exist. It tells of a giant who lives in a castle in the Scottish Highlands, whose selfishness causes him to build a high wall around his beautiful green garden to keep out all the animals who like to play there.

Wilde’s story made waves earlier this year in Clio Barnard’s broad social-realist film adaptation, to which Wee Stories’ version for children (staged in other forms by this company on more than one occasion before, in case claims of cashing-in might be levelled) bears no resemblance. Nor does it contain much of the overt religious content of the original. Instead, there are echoes of A Christmas Carol in co-adapters Andy Cannon and Iain Johnstone’s taut morality tale of a greedy giant whose attitude and behaviour bring him loneliness.

It’s inventively staged for a low budget, with Johnstone’s giant (he also directs) winningly presented as a galoot filled with comedy panto meanness, engaging in plenty of call-and-response dialogue and animal impressions with the primary school-aged audience. The transforming castle set makes a little go a long way, and the two female dancers who complete the cast bring vividly amusing life to the changing of the seasons as the giant’s garden becomes a snowy waste. It’s a small-scale show, but its heart is giant-sized.

Edinburgh Festival Theatre Studio, until Tue 24 Dec.

The Selfish Giant

Wee Stories presents a new take on the classic tale of a mean giant, who might just mend his ways in time to have a happy Christmas.