Bananaman, The Musical – Southwark Playhouse Until 20th January
Reviewed by Ros Freeborn
All generations must have their superheroes; for children in the 1980s, tea-time television presented awe-struck audiences with the adventures of Bananaman, a particularly dim-witted super-hero who started life on the back pages of the DC Thomson comic, Nutty.
In this lively interpretation of the Bananaman story we meet young Eric Wimp, played with conviction by Mark Newnham, a bullied, only child, lacking in confidence who longs to get with his sweetheart Fiona but can’t find the right words. One day, a passing comet flies past Acacia Road (of course) ‘where nothing ever happens and there’s never any news’ and our mortal hero is imbued with super powers, triggered by eating a banana (of course).
Mark Perry, director of the show, and his creative team have produced a very entertaining, frenetic and totally bonkers everyday story of a super-hero. We all cheered and gasped when Eric transformed into a massive, gym-toned hero dressed in skin-tight electric blue suit complete with curly banana boots, gloves and banana peel cloak, but realised, quite quickly that he was actually a bit dim. Matthew McKenna, as the transformed Bananaman, was very much the comic hero as he bounced around with foppish vigour and the stumbling good manners of a Hugh Grant character.
Photo Credit Pamela Raith
Bananaman the Musical is packed with lively songs, a mix of yearning solos and hectic company numbers with much kicking and flicking choreography all ably conducted by musical director Mal Hall and his small band.
In terms of story and characterisation it’s hard to describe exactly what happens and who does what. We have potential love interest between Eric and his school friend Fiona (a feisty Emma Ralston), a roly-poly policeman chasing after the miscreants (TJ Lloyd) and two baddies – Doctor Gloom and General Blight. These dastardly villains are sort of in cahoots to obtain the ‘power’ of the comet and of Bananaman…. but it all got a bit confused. However, I was particularly impressed by Marc Pickering who, as evil Doctor Gloom, brought a sinister stillness to his role combined with weird bottle top glasses, a nice line in small step creeping and some belting songs.
Like Pantomime, this show should appeal to children of all ages – with some of the nuances rightly flying over young heads but causing mayhem and mirth with an older audience sensible to double-entendres and a lot of suggestive strutting. A good fun show for New Year entertainment.
BANANAMAN THE MUSICAL
77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD
Friday December 15 2017 to
Saturday 20 January 2018
Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday at 3.00pm
Previews £14, Full £25, Concs £20
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