Trolls- Online – The Cockpit Theatre, London

Reviewer: John Cutler

Writer: Tim Thomas

Director: Marcus Fernando

“But why the trolls?” refugee Gaia enquires of software engineer boyfriend Frank, late on in Tim Thomas’ new musical Trolls-Online. It is a good question. Their presence, in the form of a snarling, encircling ensemble, tossing out insults at the protagonists like confetti at a wedding, makes no sense at all. That goes for much else in this show.

Thomas seems to be aiming at some kind of biting satire here but it is hard to work out exactly what he is trying to lampoon. The focus of his ire starts off with scheming investment bankers inventing new ways of screwing clients. His disdain moves on in short order to love-bombing romance scammers, thence to Instagram influencers, followed swiftly by climate-crisis deniers. He has a bash at bitcoin, a pop at racist politicians, and throws a punch at the Royal Navy’s seemingly whale-unfriendly sonar devices.

Then there are those verbally incontinent internet trolls, led by a dominatrix clad in black leather and wielding a cat o’ nine tails. Oh, and add into the heady brew a heavily rouged elderly rock star with tights, heels, and a Brummie accent that puts Ozzy Osbourne to shame. Thomas has one of his characters quote Hamlet: “what a piece of work is man”. You may well feel the same about the show as you scratch your head in sheer befuddlement.

It is not that the songs are bad; in fact, many of them are enjoyable. The charming duet Wake Me, Wake Me, sung by Frank (Tyler Ephraim) and Gaia (Milly Day-Collett) has something to say about the risks and rewards of falling in love. Feathery voiced Day-Collett gets a great job done with A Place Called Home, a touching homage to the war-torn country she is escaping. I’m Still Rocking, sung by the writer as the aged star, adds in a deft touch of glam rock. Expect a barber shop quintet of trolls, rapping babies chanting about pooh, and a comic track about sadomasochism (with a chorus line of “I’m going to squeeze your nipples and kick you in the nuts”). Musical director Griffin Jenkins leads a talented onstage band, located between a gravestone and a substantial plastic whale, that occasionally looks as baffled as the audience.

The narrative, such as it is, follows the burgeoning romance between Frank and Gaia. Their evolving relationship comes to no real conclusion as the show simply stops dead in its tracks after an hour. Nothing is resolved, not that it matters because nothing is at stake. Of course, there is nothing remotely wrong in a writer producing a show entirely on his own terms, and if a kind of stream-of-consciousness litany of all the things in life Thomas dislikes floats your boat, go for it. The rest of us might just sit back in awe.

Runs until 1 April 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Musical about trolls.

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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