Monday 8 January 2018


Bananaman the Musical at Southwark Playhouse

Super heroes have been all the rage on the big and small screen in recent years. But what about the theatre? Besides the infamous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway, known more for its stunt troubles and extortionate budget, few flying heroes have made it onto the stage. Here in the UK we had monstrous rock musical The Toxic Avenger saving the day a few years ago and following on from its success we now have a yellow-caped, spandexed super hero battling power-hungry villains at the same venue.

Eric Wimp is just an ordinary teenager until he is hit by a meteorite shard and one bite of a banana turns him from awkward kid pining for classmate Fiona into the dim-witted but beefed up Bananaman. He dons a banana-shaped cape and even his gloves and shoes curl up into the telltale pointy peel shape, just in case we missed the memo about the source of his powers.

True to comic book form, a pair of super villains are on the hunt for the powerful meteorite shard to help them obtain world domination and it's up to Eric's wit and Bananaman's muscles – aided by side-kicks Crow (yes, an actual Crow) and wannabe reporter Fiona – to stop them before it's too late...

Bringing the famous comic to the Southwark Playhouse stage are Leon Parris, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, and director Mark Perry. They've turned the short strip into a fully-fledged stage adventure filled with a host of powerful tunes, mad-dash chases, blooming romance, and some kapows and kablams thrown in for good measure.

It sounds like all the right ingredients for a solid super hero showdown and yet something was missing to make this a stand-out show. Beneath the cheesy one-liners and slapstick sequences (banana peel optional), there wasn't much substance beyond the surface to warrant a two and a half hour long musical. It felt too long; the jokes repeatedly dragged out until they lost all ap-peel (#sorrynotsorry).

That isn't to say that there wasn't anything to enjoy, mind. The spark the book lacked was more than made up for by its most excellent cast. Between Jodie Jacobs puppeteering Crow and Emma Ralston playing a very keen Fiona, the musical has two of the most powerful female voices I've heard in a while and they gave their respective songs a kick-ass rock and roll vibe. Matthew McKenna was also a revelation as the posh-voiced but bumbling Bananaman, oozing potassium-fuelled charisma.

However, it was devilish duo Mark Pickering and Carl Mullaney who with their terribly hilarious disguises and over the top evilness stole the show as super villains Dr Gloom and General Blight. Pickering's Dr Gloom in particular was an absolute delight, he was clearly having a lot of fun with his role and it showed. And Mullaney's dance sequence towards the end... let's just say he went bananas.

With a cartoonish and vibrant design, Bananaman and his friends (and enemies) look like they've walked straight out of their comic book panels onto the stage. The show might be overlong for its basic story, the sheer talent on stage and the nostalgia-fest for those over thirty make this a fun and colourful super hero outing to brighten up those dark and dreary January days.

Bananaman the Musical is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 20 January 2018. Book your tickets here.

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

🎵 Listening to: Tom Fletcher & Carrie Hope Fletcher – Love is on the Radio
🔹 Mood: Busy

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