Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Review: The Toxic Avenger at the Southwark Playhouse

The Toxic Avenger 
Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Tuesday 26th September 2016

Having premiered in New Jersey in 2008 before opening off-Broadway the following year, The Toxic Avenger is finally making its UK premiere. Providing two and a half hours of joyous insanity, The Toxic Avenger features a brilliant rock-fuelled score by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro who wrote the musical Memphis.

Based on the 1984 film, The Toxic Avenger has cult written all over it. It's weird and it's bonkers - not everybody is going to 'get' this show, but once I had adapted to the craziness I absolutely loved it.

The Toxic Avenger follows aspiring earth scientist Melvin Ferd the Third who tries to solve the toxic waste problem in Tromaville, but instead gets dropped into a vat of toxic waste and is transformed into New Jersey’s first superhero (aka The Toxic Avenger).

Despite the material being good, there is no way the show could work without the right cast. Director Benji Sperring has assembled an incredible group of performers who let themselves go and commit to the max.

Marc Pickering and Ashley Samuels give the stand out performances, constantly switching between extreme characters of all shapes, sexes and sizes. They change characters within seconds - backstage must be like organised chaos.

Also demonstrating superb versatility is Lizzii Hills; at the end of the first act Hills' two characters, Ma Ferd and Mayor, share a spectacular number 'Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore'. It's a difficult challenge, but Hills pulls it out the bag and brings the house down. Hannah Grover is superb as blindly in love Sarah whilst Mark Anderson is a revelation in the title role - his vocals are dreamy whilst he excels in a character driven role.

Mike Lees' design is particularly impressive for a theatre as small as Southwark whilst Andy Johnson's sound design is on the mark - the levels were spot on meaning for a nice change I could hear the band and cast perfectly. 

The Toxic Avenger is so much fun. It's just ludicrous escapism with a top notch cast and some brilliant tunes along the way.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Toxic Avenger runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 21st May 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Claire Bilyard

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