Terrific Tröll is a pre-teen treat

22 September 2022

Kicking off Awesome Festival, Troll lures Rita Clarke and an audience of school children into its updated Icelandic myth with special effects and equally special storytelling.

Tröll, Trick of the Light Theatre for Awesome Festival ·
State Theatre Centre. 21 September 2022 ·

New Zealand’s Trick of the Light Theatre has picked up a few awards for Tröll including those at the Edinburgh Festival and our own Fringe World, both in 2019. Its success can be attributed not only to writer Ralph McCubbin Howell and directors Charlotte Bradley and Hannah Smith but to the talented crew who mastermind the fabulous special effects.

Howell takes on the solo role of the almost-a-teenager, Ottó, ably assisted by Smith as a very busy on-stage operator in charge of the props and sound-board. She also sits motionless at the side of the stage when representing Ottó’s chain-smoking, Icelandic grandma, beautifully captured as an audacious, raspy-voiced, warrior through the voice-over of Anya Tate Manning.

A stage is covered in squares of green light, referencing the green cursor of vintage compuers. In the centre of a screen we can see the face of a young man.
The busyness on the computer is enlarged and splattered across the stage. Photo: Tabitha Arthur Photography

Ottó starts telling us his story alone at a computer in his old wooden house in the quiet of 4am. We get to know Ottó’s father and mother, again, through voice-overs (Bradley and Howell) who respond to his typical teenager angst in a way typical of otherwise-engaged teenagers’ parents.

Ottó is beset by problems with which many young children will be able to identify. He hates PE, is not particularly popular and finds solace, chatting on the computer in the early hours of the morning because “no one’s a dick on the internet”.

He also has some very strange things going on due to his ancient amma (grandmother), who’s come to live with them in the outhouse. And that’s not to mention a rapidly growing greedy Troll which only his amma knows how to combat.

The moral of Tröll may well be about deciding bravely to confront your monsters – preferably with the help of a feisty grandmother. And it certainly helps if you have a hero to give your courage. It was a delightful surprise to learn that Ottó’s hero is none other than the flame-haired Iceni Queen Boudicca, who fought the fearsome Roman Army.

A rather shy-at-first young school student audience began to lean forward and nudge each other as the special effects evolved. Created to bring this Icelandic myth up to date (well circa 1998) by setting it in our IT-encrusted world, these are ingenious. Wow-moments occur when an upturned laptop becomes a block of apartments, charge-chords become animated, the green eyes of the monstrous Troll glare, through the dark and the busyness on the computer is enlarged and splattered across the stage (lighting design Marcus McShane, projection design Charley Draper, graphic design, Edward Watson.) The puppetry (consultant Jon Coddington) is also amusing and clever, depicting Otto in cartoon-like animation.

Effects or not, storytelling needs a good storyteller and Howell is terrific in the role of Ottó. He has a cheeky face and captures all the foibles and expressions of a young boy beset with insecurities but curious and brave; and he manipulates the many intriguing technical demands like a spider spinning his web. He spins it well enough to catch the audience’s acclaim – at the end of Troll the students immediately turned to speak eagerly to each other.

I heard one young boy say to no-one in particular, “I really loved that.”

Me too.

Tröll‘s public season at the Awesome Festival runs 27-29 September 2022 at the State Theatre of WA.

Pictured top: Ralph McCubbin Howell is terrific in the role of Ottó. Photo: Philip Merry, Axylotl Photography

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Author —
Rita Clarke

Whilst studying arts at UWA Rita found herself working at Radio 6UVSfm presenting the breakfast and Arts shows, and writing and producing various programs for ABC’s Radio National. A wordsmith at heart she also began writing features and reviews on theatre, film and dance for The Australian, The Financial Review, The West Australian, Scooby and other magazines. Tennis keeps her fit, and her family keeps her happy, as does writing now for Seesaw.

Past Articles

  • Rewriting tradition with skill and charm

    It’s a privilege to witness the stunning dexterity of choreographer Raghav Handa and musician Maharshi Raval as they disrupt the traditional roles of Indian dance with grace and charisma, says Rita Clarke.

  • Straight talk reveals resilience behind anguish

    Despite its focus on the inhumanity of incarceration, Jurrungu Ngan-ga has the audience laughing and on its feet with admiration, writes Rita Clarke.

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