Review: GIANT at St Andrew’s Church

By - Friday 8th June, 2018

This remarkable play received a big send-off

Photo by Zoo Co, used with permission.

“We want theatre to be inclusive and accessible to everyone.” These were the words of Flo O’Mahony, as she introduced the last-ever performance of GIANT at St Andrew’s Church a couple of Fridays ago. Not content with just speaking the words, Flo was also signing as the whole company have learned (and continue to learn) British Sign Language.

I saw GIANT at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016, before I’d even met the company and before they’d based themselves in Croydon. I was impressed with their accomplished style of physical ensemble theatre, their comedic skills, and their ability to use tableau, music and props to tell a story. I was, and still am to be honest, slightly allergic to the clown make-up, but they do it well and it’s in context.

GIANT tells the story of three generations; couples fall in love, babies are born, teenagers flirt and children grow up and go out to work. At the same time possessions collect in the attic, and the noise that emanates from there is only heard by Grandma. The story focuses on twenty-two-year old Tommy, who has big dreams but ends up working in an office, much to the dismay of his aspirational girlfriend, who works as an unpaid marketing intern and wants to travel the world.

The cast are part performing, part mingling when the audience arrives

Cardboard boxes feature heavily; they help make up the set and are used creatively throughout the show. We are greeted by stacks of them when we arrive, along with the company in costume who are part mingling, part performing. There’s a lot of love in the room; old cast members have returned to see the last performance and even a faulty PA can’t dampen spirits. It’s a great show and it got the send-off that it deserved.

It feels unfair to single out any of the performers for praise, as they really are a tight ensemble, but Nick Gilbert is unfailing funny. By the end of the show he just has to take a sly look at the audience and we are laughing. Artistic director Flo also has a great rant-y monologue about student debt, gainful employment and the pressures of being a young adult accompanied by some seriously glittery hot pants and a mean tap dance.

It was a satisfying night out at the church-cum-theatre, and we can expect more events at St Andrew’s Church as Zoo Co is working with the diocese to curate an arts programme there. In the meantime, a unit in the Whitgift Centre has been turned into a theatre and creative space featuring workshops, open rehearsals, family shows and more. Theatre On The High Street will be there until the end of July, close to the Wellesley Road entrance, and I encourage you all to drop in and take advantage of the packed programme. You’ll receive a very warm welcome.

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur is a mum of three, dog owner and director of Croydonites Festival of New Theatre. Born in the north-east, she grew up just outside of Portsmouth but London and Croydon have been her home for over 20 years. She also works in contemporary dance, but don’t hold that against her.

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