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The Chocolate Troll. Stardust Theatre Company. Terry O'Toole Theatre. 11 June 2022

Updated: Apr 8, 2023

The Chocolate Troll by Kei Bailey

Stardust Theatre Company

Terry O'Toole Theatre

North Hykeham

11 June 2022

Today, Review Culture was privileged to attend a showing of a new play by a very special theatre company simply called Stardust. They were performing a brand-new fairy tale by the company's Creative Director and resident writer, Kei Bailey. It was an absolute delight to spend time with the company as they prepared for the show and I witnessed first-hand the nerves of the performers as they panicked and worried (unnecessarily I must add!). They gave a wonderful performance full of heart and truly joyful. It was the most uplifting piece of work I have seen in a long time. Full credit goes out to all the unnamed heroes who run the company and played a part in the creation of the play.

The Story Maker (Colette Buchanan-Gray) greets the audience and sets the scene. It is a tale set in the Land of Make Believe (cue Bucks Fizz and a wonderful dance routine choreographed by Becky Watmore). The company is an inclusive group and everyone was encouraged to show their strengths in this lovely show. The singing and dancing puts a smile on the face of every audience member.

We meet Max Merridew (Tom Kirk), something of a chocoholic, and his friend Dennis (Will Kirk). Dennis buys Max a giant-sized bar of chocolate as a gift that is stolen by the mischievous Chocolate Troll (William Pavitt). The TV advert is presented by Adam Fielding.

Thereafter, there ensues a quest to recover the bar from the Troll who we keep being told isn't real but who makes repeated appearances with a panto-inspired cry of "He's behind You!" from the rowdy and appreciative audience. Max and Dennis engage a private detective agency to assist their efforts and we meet Sheerluck Bones (Thomas Marron) and his assistant Magna Fineglass (Paige Ruddleskin), along with Agatha their talking dog (Keri-Anne Beaumont).

They are soon chasing the Troll on a pirate ship captained by Bonny Bess Blackwater (Beth Stokes) who leads a song and dance number to Katie Perry's Roar. Her shipmates include Anne Bowles, Rachel Pavitt and Laura Griffin.

The next stop on their quest after the pirate ship is an enchanted castle where Princess Fifi Fluffikins (Eleanor Kirk) is throwing away the well-intended guest Princesses at her birthday party. The routine to Dancing Queen was a highlight to witness. Kerry Louise Maclean, Hollie Morris, Sandra Carter, Jo Robinson and Josephine O'Brien played the other princesses and all looked very glamorous in their best princess dresses.

Next stop, the Wild West to see if the cowboys might have stolen Max's chocolate bar. We meet Buckaroo McGrew (Jack Strange), Calamity Shane (Henry Jackson), Daisy-Mae Deadwood (Brianna Sprague), Rabbit Hutch Cassidy (Sara Sprague) and Cactus Clint (Becky Watmore). Steps' classic 5, 6, 7, 8 provides a perfect routine for this scene and is clearly a cast favourite to perform as their enthusiasm shines through with some fine line dancing.

The cowboys send the questors to a creepy forest to try a coven of witches to see if they know anything about the whereabouts of the missing bar and after yet another energetic dance routine, four witches - Hilda Slugsquidger (Becki Doughty), Arabella Wormbuster (Mandy Ashley), Edith Maggotmincer (Zara Barratt) and Noreen Goosecracker (Laura Whitton) - cast their spells and offer help to Max and Dennis along with their detective friends. But the solution is out of this world LITERALLY...

Max and Co. are transported to outer space on the Starship Sparrow under the captaincy of Captain Tiberius Proton (Stephen Coote), assisted by Luna Skyrunner (Hannah Priestley) and Lieutenant Nebula (Kei Bailey doing his best Alfred Hitchcock-like cameo) until they meet alien Commander Zlub played by Adam Fielding.

Eventually, the team finally realise that the Chocolate Troll is real and meet him in his natural habitat where they realise that he is really only stealing chocolate because he is lonely and they choose to befriend him and all ends happily ever after.

It was an absolute pleasure to be transported to the Land of Make Believe for an afternoon. The effort in bringing this show to the stage has been massive and not without its challenges but the end result is magnificent and hugely satisfying. I witnessed the power of performing arts to bring a diverse cast together like a big family with the purpose of entertaining an audience with their talents. The sheer delight on the faces of all involved was reward enough and I felt quite humbled by the show and its performers today. I look forward to their next adventure!

Andy Evans 11 June 2022

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