Harmless banter or hurtful insults? Manchester playwright delves into murky waters of online trolling

By Katja Stein

Whether you’re browsing popular videos on YouTube, commenting on a photo on a TV programme’s Facebook page or tweeting a celebrity on Twitter, you’re sure to come across trolls in the online world.

Trolls are online users who purposely start an argument via the use of attacks on others in the online community to get a reaction from other users.

This is a growing problem in the online community and their comments are no laughing matter; some celebrities have been sent death threats, and grieving relatives have had tribute pages for dead loved ones bombarded with offensive comments.

To explore this issue My Beating Heart Company’s Mick Cooper has written and produced Troll (Keyboard Warrior) a dark comedy drama about internet trolls and the effect they have on those around them.

Mick Cooper told MM: “I think you struggle to go online now without seeing something that could be described as ‘trolling’.

“Just like any form of communication something which is seen as ‘harmless banter’ can also be deeply hurtful and insulting.”

One of the biggest attractions of ‘trolling’ is the anonymity it provides; the online attacker does not even have to know his victims and allows the user to hide behind a computer screen.

“I find the anonymity aspect of ‘trolls’ really interesting – people are creating these characters and personas on their screens to hide behind without revealing who they really are.

“The vitriolic, vicious words on your screen might seem they’re coming from someone truly evil, but it might just be an innocent person who simply doesn’t know any better or thinks it’s all a game.”

Troll (Keyboard Warrior) sees protagonist Tom Hunter not having a good time – his girlfriend has left him and his two flatmates are constantly arguing.

Angered by online trolls Tom sets himself up as ‘The Troll Hunter’ and tries to spread happiness online by giving Tom fame, happiness and a possible romance.

But Tom should be aware as the trolls are out there waiting for him.

Mr Cooper added: “With so much press recently about online behaviour, trolls and cyber-bullying, I really wanted to write something about not only how these actions affect people, but how and why someone would start doing this in the first place.”

The production, directed by Chloe Lang, will be showing at the Kings Arms, Salford on:

September 10 – 12 at 7:30pm

September 15 at 3:00pm

Tickets cost £7 – to buy, click here

Picture courtesy of Dan Strange via Flickr, with thanks.

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