Review: Troll @ Adelaide Fringe 2024

'Troll' - Image © Hanne Nygaard
Senior Writer
James is trained in classical/operatic voice and cabaret, but enjoys and writes about everything, from pro-wrestling to modern dance.

After at least two centuries of being vilified by the supporters of Billy Goats Gruff, two Norwegian trolls, played by Marie Kallevik Straume and Anna Marie Simonsen, present their side of the story in an endearing and enjoyable romp directed by Cecily Nash.

'Troll' begins ominously: suspenseful music plays, a 'Lord Of The Rings'-esque prologue is read.

Between flashes of light, two green figures with bulbous noses like a Proboscis Monkey can be glimpsed. Maybe the Norwegian fairy tales about the ravenous creatures that lurk beneath bridges are true?

When the darkness lifts, though, and the two cheeky trolls are revealed, the audience quickly learns that while they may have a keener sense of smell, speak a different language, and have long noses and tails, the trolls and the human audiences are more alike than different: they both have their histories, are protective of their reputations, want to be accepted and loved as who they are, and they both have a taste for Coca-Cola.

Anna Marie and Marie, with the aid of Cecily, have devised a show which carefully introduces the crowd to the troll world: new customs are learnt, new troll vocabulary is taught. The audience is given an opportunity to re-discover their innate capacity to understand and empathise with the ways of others, when they are open to doing so. It is a timely reminder that the barriers to this understanding are psychologically constructed: stereotypes, and an unwillingness to consider opposing perspectives, or even to go to places, online or in person, where people (or trolls) are 'different'. The Norwegian pair of clowns have a real skill in encouraging the audience to go there, as they enlist their help to understand the human culture and technology.

'Troll' combines clowning, fantastic lighting thanks to Technical Director Stephen Moylan, and techniques derived from Brecht’s epic theatre: there are placards which narrate the stage directions, Marie takes her fake nose off briefly, the fourth wall is consistently broken, and the show concludes with a Q&A and a song. Perhaps these Brecht innovations are included as a reminder that, while 'Troll' is mostly a joyous hour of comedy, there is an important message that the artists want the crowd to take away: don’t judge until you get to know someone. Don’t be a troll to strangers in the comments section, but it’s okay to be a troll in real life.

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