Troll by Ed Harris

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BBC Radio 4, 21 May 2012
Winner of the Writers' Guild Award for the Best Radio Drama of 2011, Troll describes the troubled life of Olivia (Rosie Cavaliero), who enjoys a stable relationship with Matt (Michael Shelford), yet has to leave her home to look after her ailing mother (Marcia Warren) and brother James (Ewan Bailey), a young man finding it difficult to adjust to the outside world. Olivia ends up feeling unloved, despite her best efforts to care for her family; this can be traced back to her childhood, when her mother used to award James gold stars for effort, while appearing to ignore Olivia altogether.
In the midst of this family drama a troll (Jack Klaff) appears; he first appeared when Olivia was a little girl, at which time she promised to have him as a meal. Now the boot is on the other foot; the troll has come to devour Olivia. In desperation she tries to persuade the troll to eat her brother, but he refuses.
Things could not appear to get any worse - until Olivia discovers that James also knew about the troll's existence. Once brother and sister start to share their experiences, they discover they have more in common than they had previously assumed. The play ends on a note of cautious optimism; nothing is actually resolved about the family's future, but at least they share a sense of purpose that they did not possess in the past.
Troll does have its moments of Grand Guignol, but author Harris production uses the figure of the troll to suggest the characters' innermost feelings; the kind of things that they do not dare to express in public. In Scandinavian mythology trolls are considered dangerous to human beings; this play suggests that in a peculiar way the troll has precisely the opposite effect.
I can't describe the play as "charming" - an adjective normally associated with fairy-tales - but I have to admit I liked it very much. It well deserves its accolade.