The story of The Selfish Giant, by Oscar Wilde, has captivated children across the world for more than a hundred years. It was therefore a promising choice for the Folding Theatre Puppet Company to perform as part of this year’s Puppet Animation Festival.
Iain Halket, who founded the company in 1992, combined found objects, puppets and shadows to tell, what is seen by many as a Christian allegorical tale.
The selfish giant of the title returns from a seven year visit to an ogre friend to find that children have been using his garden to play in. Outraged, he chases the children away, erects a high and impenetrable wall around the garden and places upon it the proverbial ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ sign.
In the garden now it is perpetual winter: no plants will grow, nor flowers blossom and the birds no longer sing in the now-bare trees. After some years, the children find a way in and the garden begins to come to life again. The giant realises his selfishness and goes out to welcome the children, who run from him in fear. One boy remains, crying under a tree, and the giant picks him up and gently places him in its branches, which he had been too small to climb. The boy kisses him and the giant’s heart melts.
He tears down the wall and tells the children it is now their garden to play in. The years go by and the giant enjoys playing with the children, but he never again sees the little boy who touched his heart. One day when he is old and frail the boy comes to him once more, with wounds on his hands and feet, and he leads the giant to paradise. The next morning the giant is found dead in his garden, covered in white blossoms.
Iain Halket related the story as the giant having tea in his garden, with the various accoutrements transformed into the objects that would help him to tell his story. Aimed at those aged between three and seven years old, much of the story went over the heads of the younger ones who did, however, love some of the slapstick moments: squealing with delight when he made rude noises but fidgeting through the more wordy bits. This is fine entertainment for five plus but maybe think again if you have toddlers!