Bananaman, 4****, London

-the musical.
Book, music and lyrics by Leon Parris.

Southwark Playhouse, the Large, 74-85 Newington Butts, London SE1 6BD to 20 January 2018.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun & Tues 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.

Review: William Russell 4 January.

A comic marvel

Based on the DC Thomson comic strip which sent up the superheroes of the Marvel comics this is an energetic and frequently very funny show. Leon Parris’ score is neither here nor there, a sub Rocky Horror par for the course affair, but his lyrics are clever and amusing while the plot goes hither and thither through all the crises which afflict superheroes with great aplomb.

Eric Wimp (Mark Newnham doing the nerd to end all nerds with considerable style) is transformed into a superhero when hit by a meteor shower although Bananaman (Matthew McKenna strutting his stuff splendidly) while suitably muscle bound is not the brightest superhero on the block.
Add Eric’s mum, who makes him appalling sandwiches to take to school where he gets bullied, a busty little would be investigative journalist called Fiona (Emma Ralston channelling Janette Krankie perfectly) whom he loves, a rather dim chief of police (T J Loyd on fine huffing and puffing form) and a talking crow (wittily spoken and manipulated by Jodie Jacobs)and you have a fine collection of goodies. Then there are the trio of villains out to get Bananaman’s powers by stealing the shard of meteor which endowed him with them and rule the universe. Result – a right old comic stew.

Doctor Gloom (Mark Picketing), General Blight (Carl Mullaney) and Mad Magician (Brian Gilligan) camp it up hilariously. They would be even funnier if the band were not located above and behind the audience, which surrounds the acting area on three sides, with the result that the music plays over the actors and imposes a blanket of sound which drowns some of the lines.
However it is a small fault. Director Mark Perry has drilled his cast relentlessly and choreographer Grant Murphy has come up with some energetic rushing around routines to add to the general zest. Everything works like clockwork, including a lovely sequence when the villains manage to incarcerate the chief of police in a locked safe from which the shard has been stolen in full view of the audience.

Bananaman was my first show of 2018 and while it probably works best for people brought up on that generation of the D C Thomson comics does what it sets out to do perfectly.

Dr Gloom: Marc Pickering.
General Blight: Carl Mullaney.
Crow: Jodie Jacobs.
Mrs Wimp: Lizzi Hills.
Eric Wimp: Mark Newnham.
Fiona Mullins: Emma Ralston.
Chief O’Reilly: TJ Lloyd.
Bananaman: Matthew McKenna.
Mad Magician: Brian Gilligan.
Ensemble: Chris McGuigan; Amy Perry.

Director: Mark Perry.
Choreographer & associate director: Grant Murphy.
Musical supervisor: Alan Berry.
Musical Director: Mal Hall.
Set & Costume Designer: Mike Leopold.
Lighting Designer: Mike Robertson.
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson.

2018-01-06 11:25:35

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