REVIEW OF “TROLLE OG DEN MAGISKE FELA” AT KILDEN THEATRE, NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019
By Jane, London , UK
I was fortunate to be able to attend both the opening and closing nights of “Trolle” in Kristiansand. This meant that, when I first saw it, I didn’t know what to expect, but when I saw it again I was able to focus more on detail.
I knew the music and had an idea of the plot – but how would it translate into a full performance (and one in a language that I only have the very basics of)? Before I went I tried to find translations of as many of the songs as I could, which helped, but couldn’t find key songs either in English or Norwegian. I was going to have to hope for the best. Would there be much spoken dialogue? If not, it was going to be quite a short evening as the album runs just over 45 minutes.
Those 45 minutes translated to around 2 hours 10 magical minutes (including interval) on stage, and I am happy to say that it was easy to follow.
The physical storytelling – acting, movement, characterisation, etc., was excellent, so it was reasonably straightforward to tell what was going on and, in fact, I found I could follow a fair bit of the dialogue. Of course, the play was written with children in mind (although it was clearly enjoyed by adults as well) so the language was simple and clearly spoken. I also found I understood a fair bit more when seeing the show again.
I was surprised by quite how much humour there was – I’d love to know who wrote the script! Not only were there “comedy characters”, for example the two guards, but “serious” characters had funny lines which they delivered with perfect timing.
One of my favourite moments was when Alva looked for Trolle in the forest. Finding him sitting on a small bank, she asked if she could sit next to him and did so before he had a chance to say No (he tried!), and then got very excited and fidgety that she was actually sitting next to a real … no, couldn’t say the word … “Trolle?” he suggested. “Yes” she replied. “Congratulations!” with arms spread wide and a real “here I am” expression.
I was also pleasantly surprised that there was scarcely a moment without music as quieter background themes underplayed spoken dialogue – including some rather wonderful jazz piano during an extended monologue by the Hulder King. The continuity of action was also helped by the fact that the set changes took place without breaks – and the set and costumes deserve an award if there’s anything of that nature in Norway. Pure fairytale!
All of the cast danced and sang (although more on Alexander’s dancing later), and it’s fair to say that it was a full ensemble piece and not a “star vehicle”.
From her first entry (arguing with her father from inside the house), Ingeborg Walther played a perfect teenage Alva – petulant, determined to get her way, unable to see eye-to-eye with her father, but wanting to please and see the good in others. Her gentle manipulation of the guards was very well played, as was her attempt to get on the right side of the Hulder King – this was a girl who wasn’t going to be pushed around too easily.
Stig-Werner Moe took the role of the Hulder King as he did on the original recording and I really can’t see anyone else in that role. Yes, he was evil – but also charming (in his own way) and misunderstood. He was also the closest to a pantomime character, interacting with the children in the audience.
Two other actors stood out, although not immediately. Lars Helge Lesteberg Throndsen and Ola Magnus Gjermhus played the two guards with the right amount of comedy; they were none too clever, but not complete idiots – but they also together played Småen, Trolle’s pet wolf. With one actor providing the body and the other the head moving as one creature could not have been easy but was so well done that it was far from obvious that it was not just one person, and the movement was very natural and fluid; apparently they spent hours studying film of wolves on the internet, and further hours learning to move together.
So what of Alexander’s performance? It goes without saying that both his singing and violin playing were first class, but he also came across as an accomplished actor.
His mood and emotion reflected the development of his character – he was happy, amused, defensive, sad, betrayed (and slightly aghast when the Mayor hugged him), he maintained a reasonably long monologue with Småen, and his comedic timing was faultless. He clearly understood how to allow time for the young audience to react, but without leaving too long a pause. It was also pretty clear he had the respect of the other actors and the production team as a whole. Then there was his dancing – and a bit of an issue. His first appearance in the second act is sitting on a bank and on the first night he jumped down and seriously sprained his ankle – so much so that he received over an hour of treatment backstage after the performance. I noticed him limping and couldn’t tell whether it was acting as he worked in a little extra dialogue, and only found out later that evening what had happened. He didn’t miss any performances but was apparently limping for quite a while into the show’s run. He wasn’t limping by the final couple of days but was taking things fairly easy – not leaping around the stage as I would expect from him – but I would say that unless you knew what had happened previously you might not have noticed, as he was using his upper body very dynamically and giving the illusion of more complete movement – a trick sometimes used by professional dancers.
This was a highly enjoyable production in all aspects and it would be a great loss if it was not mounted again another year, somewhere. It sold over 10,000 tickets in the month it was on so it’s clearly popular!
Kilden has said it won’t have it next Christmas (which is a shame, as it’s a lovely theatre with spacious seats, good sightlines, a wonderful foyer and spectacular views externally) but perhaps the costumes, masks and sets could be transferred to another venue? One can only hope.