REVIEW: Our Teacher’s a Troll (Ruined Theatre, Lesnes Abbey Ruins)

One of the good things to come out of the last year is the emergence of new and exciting outdoor theatre companies who perform in unusual places. The Ruined Theatre Company is a perfect example. Born out of a desire to bring high quality, professional theatre to the communities of Abbey Wood and Thamesmead, the company has transformed the ruins of Lesnes Abbey into an open air theatre where audiences are currently being delighted by their production of Our Teacher’s a Troll. Mummy and the munchkins ventured out to Lesnes Abbey Woods on Friday for the press performance.

Our Teacher‘s a Troll is written by Dennis Kelly (writer of Matilda the Musical) and unsurprisingly has a Roald Dahl feel about it, with plenty of dark humour to delight adults and children alike. After terrorising their teacher into a (sand)pit of despair, terrible twins Sean (Louis Gaudencio) and Holly (Lilly Driscoll) appear to have met their match in new headteacher Mr Raaaaaar (Andy Watkins). (Apologies, sir if we spelled that incorrectly – We don’t speak troll.) Mr Raaaaaar runs the school with an iron fist (or, rather, a pair of very large and scary looking puppet hands which are used to excellent effect). Not only does he set his pupils to work replacing the playground with a goldmine, but he has no time at all for naughtiness. And anyone who is caught breaking his rules will find themselves on the sharp end of his tongue…..and then teeth. Despite their best efforts, Sean and Holly can’t get any grown-ups to listen to them when they say that their new headmaster is a child-munching monster. Their mum thinks they’re being naughty, the school inspector doesn’t seem too bothered and the local police officer reckons it sounds like too much paperwork. As for the Prime Minister, he’s just full of rhetoric and bluster. Eventually the twins decide to take on the teacher themselves and, with the help of the audience, prove that sometimes it pays to be a little bit naughty!

Quaver doing her best troll impression at Lesnes Abbey Ruins ahead of Our Teacher’s a Troll

It’s a fun show with a witty script which offers something for audience members of all ages. Mummy always thinks it’s a sign of a well written family show when the munchkins have to ask why all the adults are laughing! The script is written in the style of a children’s book, narrated by a cast of four, who effortlessly switch between all the different roles in the tale. The troll puppet (designed by Maia Kirkman-Richards) is especially impressive, with its large head worn by Andy Watkins and separate hands which are operated by the rest of the cast. Despite the troll’s dastardly deeds, he somehow manages to stay just on the right side of scary for a young audience, plenty of whom were happy to queue up for a photo with the puppet afterwards!

We highly recommend taking a trip out to Lesnes Abbey Woods for this fun family show, which is set in an unbelievable location. It’s really quite special to watch a show from a picnic blanket in the middle of 12th Century ruins. Despite living just a few stops away on the train, we have never been out to this hidden gem of South East London and can confirm that it is well worth a visit. There is lots to see and do, meaning you could easily make a day of it on top of the hour long show. (We seem to be making a habit of recommending playgrounds in our outdoor theatre reviews but we can confirm that the Lesnes Abbey Woods playground is excellent – Mummy has very sore arms this weekend after joining the munchkins on a spinning, aerial seesaw contraption!)

The Ruined Theatre Company has worked hard to ensure that the show is as accessible as possible, with discounted prices being made available to local residents and school pupils in Greenwich and Bexley Boroughs. They have also partnered with Peabody Housing Association to ensure that families in financial hardship in the area have access to free tickets. Working with Bexley Council, they are currently fundraising with the hope of becoming a permanent fixture each  summer at Lesnes Abbey Ruins, offering extensive local outreach programmes and top-class  productions.  We very much hope to see them back next year!

Our Teacher‘s a Troll plays at Lesney Abbey Ruins from 12 to 22 August 2021. We received complimentary tickets to the press performance on 13 August.

Age recommendation: 5+ (but suitable for all the family)