Tom Hunter has not had a good time recently – his girlfriend has left him and his two flat mates are constantly arguing. Angered by online ’trolls’, Tom sets himself up as “The Troll Hunter”. But Tom should be aware, the trolls are there, waiting for him..
The wave of so-called cyber-bullying is claiming innocent childhoods up and down the country. The power of the masses exerting untold pressure via the screen ’social’ networks provide has never been stronger. And in a week where Disney has launched a lexicon of commonly-used Internet terms to help parents comes Troll, the first production from My Beating Heart Theatre.
It’s all a bit Inbetweeners to begin with as we join the hapless trio of lads who form the core of the production: geeky Tom (Andrew Marsden), the laconic Mac (John Weaver) and the hyperactive Percy (Thomas Ingham).
We stray into pure sitcom territory for a while before Tom’s fortunes change when he meets Lottie (Hannah Ellis) in his IT job. She doesn’t use the Internet, or Twitter, so she is blissfully unaware of his secret identity as the ’Troll Hunter’ and his mission: commanding his followers to spread positivity online.
The comedic elements jar with the serious topic at hand. One potentially comedic moment of Tom in his Troll Hunter costume is blown by having him on stage wearing it as you enter. When it comes, the short, sharp conclusion is well-played, but shys away from showing the practical consequences for the characters. Neither does it really attack or explore the practice of trolling. When Tom’s downfall begins, it’s the bottle that is the root cause rather than any inherent malicious intent.
There’s little subtlety in the characterisations. The inept Percy is irritatingly over the top and the burgeoning love story between Tom and Lottie feels played for laughs rather than trying to be believable – perhaps it is apt given the circumstances of their relationship, but by exaggerating the mannerisms it drifts too close to slapstick for my liking.
Where Troll is more successful is in its attempts to tackle the cult of Twitter. You never get a sense of the cult of the Troll Hunter beyond the confines of Tom’s grotty flat, but neither should you, as Tom’s ‘cult’ effectively ceases to exist outside of this space. In the space of a hour you see the rise and fall of an internet ’celebrity’ – how many more came and went during the performance?
It is an excellent idea to have the tweets appearing via projection to bridge scenes – these interludes conveyed a sense of interactivity and it is a shame more of the story wasn’t told this way. This could be taken further, as suggested by a friend, to include live tweeting, possibly even audience reactions.
Troll is My Beating Heart’s first production, and they already say they have more waiting in the wings, but for me Troll isn’t quite the story it wants to be. The concluding moments ooze what the heart of Troll promises. This said, I await My Beating Heart’s next show with interest.
The Fiction Stroker gives Troll two and a half strokes out of five.
Troll runs at The Kimgs Arms until 12 September, with the final performance following on 15 September.