Troll by Handbendi Brúðuleikhús
Troll, created and produced by Iceland based Handbendi Brúðuleikhús, is foremost a beautiful piece of visual puppetry theatre. It is a show that is full of intricate details and surprises and wonderful gnarly characters. The design of the show by writer/director/maker Greta Clough is embedded into the story, as well as the characters, in a very satisfying way. The trolls are made of the same material as the set and thus clearly are connected to the island and the land – whereas the human characters, with the exception of a little girl who befriends a troll, are clearly made of other materials and impose on the landscape as they settle and colonise.
Puppeteering the world and the characters are Siȃn Kidd and Samuel Dutton who are both impressive and expressive performers. They clearly had the most fun with the troll puppets when they were interacting with each other and those moments were great fun for the audience too. It was a lovely space to share with these performers and characters as they explored their shifting friendships and circumstances. Perhaps having a third pair of hands would have made their job easier, but as it was the flow of the show was well directed by Sigurður Líndal Pórisson and Greta Clough.
Developed and made in rural Iceland, Troll is clearly connected to the place and community where it is from. The soundtrack of Paul Mosely and sound designer Sigurvald Ívar Helgason incorporated a local ‘troll choir’ and contextualised the windy wilderness of Iceland. The infusion of the audience into this aural landscape worked really well alongside the emphasis on visual story telling.
Foregrounding the visual storytelling was for the most part successful but incorporating a little more of the oral traditions and history of the trolls, whether through song or a small amount of dialogue, might have layered a further meaning to the piece. There are two key things mentioned in the program about Icelandic trolls and their folklore which are central to the plot and are not clearly established in the show. If these elements were included it would sharpen the impact of the encroaching humans on troll land and foreshadow the emotional climax. Whilst it was refreshing to watch a puppetry show that wasn’t ‘chatty’, a few more words can connect well with a young audience and helps to focus on the images.
Despite this, Troll is a brave little show and much like it’s main characters it isn’t afraid to take on big issues (colonisation, humans vs. nature, and cross cultural friendships) – and it also isn’t afraid of the form that it exists in. It plays well to visual and aural strengths and the show is a beautiful introduction to a mythical island and its trollish inhabitants.
Greta Clough Puppets, Set, and Story
Sigurður Líndal Þorisson Director
Sigurvald Ívar Helgason Sound designer
Paul Mosely Composer
Siȃn Kidd and Samuel Dutton Puppeteers