Edinburgh has a fantastic new festival venue in Paines Plough, Summerhall. From the outside, it looks fairly unprepossessing and you think, ‘Oh, it’s a tent.’ But once you step inside, all preconceptions are swept aside. This is a fabulous theatre-in-the-round, complete with state-of-the-art programmable LED lights and a crystal clear sound system – but, even more remarkably, it can be dismantled piece-by-piece and packed into a single lorry, to be taken anywhere in the world. Roundabout are justifiably proud of their new baby and offered a pre-festival sneak peek at one of their upcoming plays – Our Teacher’s A Troll by Dennis Kelly.
Kelly must be one of the most eclectic writers in the business. It’s hard to link this chirpy slice of children’s theatre with DNA or Utopia or his TV sitcom, Pulling, but they are all the work of an accomplished and creative mind. OTAT tells the story of two ‘terrible’ twins at an inner-city school, who, having driven their head teacher to a nervous breakdown (she’s found eating sand in the sandpit), discover that her replacement is something that they could never have expected – a gigantic flesh-eating troll with a hard line on troublemakers. The children at the school are made to dig up the playground and work in the resulting goldmine, while the troll takes action against anyone who is unruly (pupils and teachers alike) by biting off their heads.
This is a two-hander: the twins (and everyone else in an extensive selection of characters) are portrayed by Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis, who effortlessly switch from character to character, occasionally using a voice-transforming microphone to embody the unseen but terrifying troll. The duo’s command of the circular stage is total and there’s plenty of lively interaction with members of the audience. The play is suitable for children aged 7 and up, but there’s plenty here to entertain the grown-ups also, and only the grumpiest audience members will fail to be enthralled as the tale unfolds. So parents of young children, take note. This is too good a treat to miss and it’s on until the 23rd August, with the hardworking actors (who are also appearing in other productions at the same venue) taking only an occasional day off throughout the run.