Fringe World, News, Reviews, Theatre

Lighting up the darkness in young lives

Fringe World review: Trick of the Light Theatre, Troll ·
Blue Room, January 30 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

One day Ralph McCubbin Howell and his crew will emerge from the cave of his imagination outside Wellington, New Zealand (Peter Jackson is his next door neighbour – in a much bigger, fancier, cave no doubt) and come to Perth with a show that isn’t brainy, alluring, pointed, exciting and sort of perfect no matter how old you are.

Troll is decidedly not it.

It’s the story of nearly-13-year-old Otto, his clandestine early morning adventures on the dial-up internet  (first line: “It’s 4am and I’m awake!”) and the monster that stirs in the wiring of his computer.

Otto overcomes his fears and turns the beast to stone  with the aid of his acidic, Icelandic, chain-smoking grandmother Amma (as the guy in the cave next door will tell you, trolls struggle with sunlight), and it’s all as marvellous and magical as its antecedents The Bookbinder (2016 Fringe) and The Road That Wasn’t There (2017).

It’s also a little nostalgic, for the times early in the computer age when the overture of dial-up static led kids to a world that was a little less overwhelming, and a whole lot safer.

Before there were trolls, in other words.

All the tricks of the light we’ve come to expect from Howell’s Trick of the Light Theatre are there, although this show is more minimalist and digitised than its predecessors. Much of it is lit by the torch on Otto’s iPhone, while Hannah Smith scurries about the set she designed manipulating the show’s effects.

Howell, who’s shaved off his trademark beard to be Otto, is growing as an actor, here a character more than a narrator, and live action is more pronounced than before.

The ideas – about loneliness and guilt, fear and its overcoming, being young and growing up, separation and return – are woven into the story with great skill and tact; there’s much humour, much sweet emotion and a great deal of wisdom.

If you’ve seen Howell and Trick of the Light before you don’t need me to tell you this (and you’ll have already bought your tickets).

If you haven’t, now’s the time to.

Troll plays at The Blue Room until February 9.

Pictured top: Ralph McCubbin Howell in Troll. Photo: Tabitha Arthur and Ed Watson


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