My Plays
Back to my plays

Book & songs by David Wood.
Incidental music by Peter Pontzen.

Commissioned by the Farnham Repertory Company, the play was first performed in 1983 at the Redgrave Theatre, Farnham. Later that year, Whirligig Theatre toured the play throughout the UK, including Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London.

There have been several foreign productions, including South Africa, and the play is popular with amateur companies.


THE SELFISH SHELLFISH looks at a serious contemporary issue in an entertaining, though not flippant, way. The author hopes that young audience’s concern about oil pollution will be encouraged by this story. Life for the Rockpool dwellers is full of uncertainty.

Every new tide brings fresh surprises or new problems.

Rockpool refugees, Starfish and her young nephew, Urchin, together with the residents Mussel, the Giant Anemone and the cantankerous Old Hermit Crab, cope reasonably well with their insecure existence – until Seagull brings them warning of a possible catastrophe: the Great Slick is coming …

The audience joins in the battles with the Great Slick and his henchman, Sludge. The song WHEN WILL WE LEARN? is often used by schools, as an environmental anthem.

David Wood writes : I was delighted when Stephen Barry commissioned this play for the Redgrave, Farnham. Thankfully he didn’t ask for a commercial title, which meant I could write an “issue” play. Sadly, a few years on, the play is still very topical.


“… probably the most important children’s play of the decade.”
The Guardian

“… a poignant, pioneering children’s play.”
The Stage

“… a landmark in children’s theatre …”
Farnham Herald

“… the evident enjoyment of the vast numbers of school children at the opening performance – shrieking with terror at the Great Slick, howling with laughter at the humour, and silently taking in the serious message – was enough to prove the play’s success …”
Chichester Observer

“So how do children react to a play with a serious message? Just one look at their faces gives the answer : they love it.”
West Sussex County Times

“David Wood’s THE SELFISH SHELLFISH may be hard to mouth, but it is easy to pronounce it excellent. It played to one of the most discriminating audiences you could find anywhere, a house full of children. Their restlessness was minimal, their participation high and their reception quite ringing.”
Evening Argus

“David Wood’s style of writing makes him a genius as far as children’s theatre goes. Here was a message for conservation that may have been boring if told in the classroom. On stage, however, the message comes home loud and clear … after seeing the creatures in this show a quiet stroll along the tideline will never seem the same again.”
South Wales Evening Post


The Selfish ShellfishThe play was first published by Amber Lane Press. The acting edition is published by Samuel French Ltd. The music for the songs and the incidental music is available on hire from Samuel French Ltd First Class Professional & Foreign Rights : Casarotto Ramsay Ltd. UK Repertory Rights : Casarotto Ramsay Ltd. UK Amateur Rights : Samuel French Ltd. US Stock and Amateur Rights : Samuel French Inc.