Pros: Unique, engaging, and enchanting!
Cons: Perhaps just a bit too long.
London’s premier producer of oral storytelling performances – The Crick Crack Club – has been around for a quarter of a century and continually offers diverse, fascinating, and magical evenings hosted at venues across London, steeped in the oral tradition. Most recently the club brought French-Norwegian storyteller Abbi Patrix to Soho Theatre, to weave tales from Norway and to revitalise the true nature (and horror) of the Norwegian troll in the modern European canon.
If it all sounds a bit too academic, what I can say is that it certainly was an educational evening, packed with new information (for me at least); but I must also say that I hardly realised how much history and mythology I learned until after the fact, and the evening went down delightfully.
This is, of course, due to Patrix’ finesse as a story teller and clear passion for the material. Raised in France by a French father and Norwegian mother, Patrix was held captive in fear and fascination of Norse myth since childhood. His mother often read to him and his siblings in Norwegian, and while they couldn’t understand much of the language at the time, they certainly understood what a troll was and that it was terrifying. He grew up and threw himself into the material, and now shares troll stories across Europe, with shows catering to children and adults.
Patrix frames his show with a complaint: Trolls have lost the sense of terror once associated with them. The nature of a large, brutish, man-eating troll of Norse legend has been watered down by cute and harmless visions created within children’s toys, films and books. It is very much Patrix’s intention to establish the Real Troll in modern culture. To do this he told several stories, three in the first half of the evening, and one extended one following an intermission – The Companion. Patrix mixes in plenty of music as well as personal anecdotes to give the stories context and allow the evening as a whole to flow like a friendly conversation.
The result is a simple, but engaging, magical experience that makes you think it’s a crime that oral storytelling has fallen out of fashion in mass culture. It was maybe a bit too long (two fifty minute halves is long for any show), and the absense of strong visual stimulation did affect my concentration after a while – however this was quite possibly due to the fact that trends in theatre have made me an out-of-practice listener.
Overall, Patrix was a true delight and I think he succeeded in his mission. I’m much more frightened of the idea of a troll than I was before the show, and I’m also keen to hear more stories!