Stranger Things meets puppetry for DreamBIG show Tröll

Storytelling, projections, music and puppetry will combine in an uncanny tale about the digital age when DreamBIG Children’s Festival presents Tröll later this month. We caught up with director Hannah Smith and writer/performer Ralph McCubbin Howell from New Zealand’s Trick of the Light Theatre to find out more.

Storytelling, projections, music and puppetry will combine in an uncanny tale about the digital age when DreamBIG Children’s Festival presents Tröll later this month.

The show tells the story of 12-year-old Otto, who teams up with his Icelandic grandmother to confront the ancient troll living in his house.

We caught up with director Hannah Smith and writer/performer Ralph McCubbin Howell from New Zealand’s Trick of the Light Theatre to find out more.

Where did the inspiration for Tröll come from?

Hannah: Ralph and I grew up in the 90s, and we both remember a time when the internet was new. Our parents didn’t use it or understand it, so it felt a bit like the wild west, a new frontier with no rules.

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Ralph: Trolls in mythology come from a time when the natural landscape loomed large and was filled with unknown threats, and in the early days of the internet we adopted the same word for trolls online – monsters that lurk in the shadows of this vast and unknown digital landscape.

Tröll is an original story, but it’s definitely indebted to myths and legends, as well to contemporary works that put their own twist on these forms – authors like Suzanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman.

Hannah: It is also inspired by grannies! Both Ralph and I had grandmothers with big hearts and sharp tongues – women who shaped our families and coloured our childhoods. There is a lot of my granny and Ralph’s gran built into Tröll.

How does it compare to Stranger Things? Are you fans of the TV series?

Hannah: We loved the first season! Tröll has several things in common with it: a creepy monster, a nerdy pre-teen character and an epic sound design with some real ‘jump scares’.

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How does the show explore the digital age through puppetry?

Hannah: We’ve always been interested in transformative staging. We made a show called The Bookbinder a few years before, and had given ourselves a rule that we could only use objects on our desk at home to create the world of the show. So books turned on their side to become buildings, and scissors became a person doing jumping jacks.

With this show we thought we’d try the same thing with the objects we left out – the digital devices that surround us every day. We use them as physical objects as much as for their digital properties, so a keyboard turned on its side becomes a skyscraper, a tangle of cables turns into a monster, and smartphones are used as stage lights.

What can you tell us about the main character, Otto? What is his relationship with his family like?

Ralph: Otto loves his family, but his relationship with them is changing. In a sense the show is a coming-of-age story – Otto sets out alone into the unknown landscapes of the internet and realises he can’t turn to his parents for guidance, so he has to find his own way and forge new alliances. This includes connecting with his sharp-tongued and mysterious Icelandic grandmother who has recently moved to live out the back of the family house.

Tröll is at Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre on May 24 & 29 as part of DreamBIG Children’s Festival.

For tickets:

dreambigfestival.com.au

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