Dennis Kelly penned the blisteringly successful stage musical of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, transforming the much-loved children’s book into a West End epic. His latest, Our Teacher’s A Troll, shares a similar personality to some of Dahl’s best, with an eagerness to appeal to children’s inherent cheekiness and desire for mischief. The 50 minute story follows the mission of Holly and Sean as they try to overthrow their new headteacher – a troll.
Set in the intimate Paines Plough Roundabout pop-up theatre and directed by George Perring, Our Teacher’s A Troll is far removed from the illustrious West End resources that Matilda enjoys and the play relies on actors Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis alone to conjure the children’s imaginations and create a dastardly world for them to enter. They do so with clever sound effects, using a microphone to project the noise of a troll eating children and teachers, bounding across the circular space, alongside a slew of ghoulish descriptions of purple tongues and foul odors delighting the children.
Terrible twins, Holly and Sean, must try to convince their parents, the police and even the prime minister that their new teacher is indeed a troll, despite the adult’s inclination to understand their plea in metaphoric terms only. It works well as a storytelling piece, interchanging dialogue between the pair with rhythm and finesse. The real highlight is the heart of the piece which celebrates children’s innate curiosity and applauds their nature and proclivity to ask ‘why?’.
Perhaps a tad too long for a few of the younger children, the play would benefit from some further injected spikes of energy or deviations away from the repetitive format. Though the children were at first enamoured by the ferocious sound of the troll booming from the microphone, the production could have perhaps done with a few more bells and whistles to delight the children.
A simple and sweet tale that will entertain children, and for many it will be a perfect introduction to the wonders of theatre.
Our Teacher’s A Troll is playing at Southbank Centre until 18 July. For tickets and more information, see the Southbank Theatre website.