Southwark Playhouse, London – until 20 January 2018
Guest reviewer: Nicola Louise
Since his first appearance in 1980, Bananaman has become somewhat of a cult classic and it’s not hard to see why. A relatively geeky young kid eats a banana and he turns into a superhero known as Bananaman, a super strong, super fast, spandex dressed muscle man with not many brain cells.
With the book, music and lyrics by Leon Parris and directed by Mark Perry, the legend of Bananaman comes alive in this comic musical. From the moment you walk into the theatre you’re transported into the world of comics: Acacia Road, Beano Town where Eric Wimp and his mother live.
The show opens with the bad guys; Dr Bloom played by Marc Pickering and General Blight played by Carl Mullaney, both of whom worked well together and it felt like they had walked straight out of a comic strip into the real world; bouncing off each other perfectly. Pickering is considerably smaller then Mullaney which just adds to their evil comedy duo.
Eric Wimp is the boy who can turn into Bananaman himself, but as his original self, he’s a small skinny boy who has trouble saying hi to the girl he likes. With a cast full of adults playing 15-year-olds you’re always worried how well it’s going to turn out, are you going to believe it? Will it start to get old real quick? Luckily this was not one of those times, Mark Newnham played a very convincing 15-year-old and a strangely convincing geek, he showed real emotion when he thought everyone hated Bananaman and it got you feeling sorry for him.
Bananaman himself was completely different to Wimp and Matthew Mckenna brought the cartoon hero to life, he was tall and handsome and worked well to bring comedy to those one-liners. Seeing this show with my 9 year old nephew really got me to see it from the shows intended audiences side and although he may not have gotten all of the jokes in the show he did say; “It’s the way he said them made them funny”. Kids aren’t going to get everything, we know this, but if you can make something sound funny for them and have the adults laugh, you’ve done a good jobNow every hero needs a sidekick right? Bananaman did, although most sidekicks are not necessarily talking birds, or Crows, in this case. That’s right, Bananaman’s sidekick is a talking crow and it’s not until Eric is hit with lightning that makes him able to turn into the superhero is he able to talk to him. I love that they’ve used a puppet for this with Jodie Jacobs as the puppeteer. I thought she brought the Crow to the front of the show and she became my main focus… even if she wasn’t really meant to be! This is the same when it came to Jacobs singing, a wonderful voice and she hit every note perfectly, but I feel toning it down just a little would have taken the focus off of herself and her character and allowed the audience to focus more on what was happening on stage around her.Other main characters included Wimps love interest, Fiona Mullins, played by Emma Ralston who played the non-damsel in distress perfectly, Chief of Police: Chief O’Reilly played by TJ Lloyd, Lizzii Hills who plays Mrs Wimp & Brian Gilligan who played the Mad Magician. All of whom worked well together to make you feel like the Acacia Road was a real community of people who will always look out for each other no matter what.I would recommend this show for children 8+ and adults alike, especially those adults who remember the cartoon, the music and lyrics of this show which fit in perfectly with the comic book feel whilst the fight scenes are a perfect ode to the old style comic books.Bananaman runs at the Southwark Playhouse until January 20th 2018photo credit: Pamela Raith