This review is of the show's Edinburgh 2014 run. The piece arrives at the Southbank Centre in 2015. Ages 7-plus.
Dennis Kelly does it again. Not content with unsettling us adults with his dark TV show ‘Utopia’, he’s decided to redress the balance and see how much the kids can take.
Kelly’s sublimely naughty RSC adaptation of ‘Matilda’ showed how he understood that kids tend to love the grotesque aspects of a character. And with this new show, performed at Paines Plough’s portable Roundabout stage, Kelly creates a horrible one of his own: a huge, galumphing, squawking, child-eating troll.
The day I saw the show, one or two delicate young flowers found it all too much. But that was mainly down to director George Perrin’s decision to give the troll the loudest, most boomingly frightening voice possible. Even the grown-ups jumped.
Performed by three actors, ‘Our Teacher’s a Troll’ tells of the moment two mischievous twins have their headmistress (who they provoked into a nervous breakdown) replaced by a troll. The troll proceeds to scare the teachers, put the students to work in a goldmine and eat anyone who doesn’t behave. The twins realise something is amiss (even though the teachers don’t) and go to a ream of adults for help, including their mum, a policeman and the Prime Minister, who all smile at their story and ignore them.
Andrew French, Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis are engaging performers, and play all of the characters in this pared-down production, swiftly moving from one to the other with ease and clarity. You never actually see the troll but Kelly’s vivid, gruesome descriptions make it feel as if it’s right there in the room with us. The script is too repetitive though, and by the time the twins have got to the PM, we’ve seeing the same scene played over and over again.
Most children love the thrill of being a bit scared, and there’s certainly that going on here. It’s just a pity the play didn’t achieve an awful lot more.